Connected healthcare just edged onto a new tech platform: the first health-related voice assistant apps. Amazon’s Echo family of devices offers a rapidly-growing range of task-specific voice apps for its “Alexa” assistant, which are called “skills”. Echo and other devices such as the Google Home are becoming popular with their voice user interface. If a person speaks in a reasonably consistent manner, voice assistant devices can learn to understand the individual user’s conversation better and better over time. Today most voice assistant interactions start with a question or a structured command. Soon you’ll even be able to ask where you can get the best prescription prices in your locale.
GoodRx announced its own Alexa skill. Currently, GoodRx members (with different benefits for free and paid memberships) enter the prescription category or brand or generic name on the company website to find the best prices. In many cases, they also can request discount coupons sent via text to the user’s phone. With the GoodRx Alexa skill, users only need to ask one of the allowed questions with the proper syntax. Current allowed commands and questions include “Alexa, ask GoodRx what is the cheapest price for (drug name)?”; “Alexa, tell GoodRx I need prices for (drug name) at (pharmacy name).”; and “Alexa, ask GoodRx what’s the cheapest price for (drug name) (dosage).“ Patients aren’t the only intended users. According to GoodRx, doctors will be able to check drug prices while talking with patients in order to send the script to the pharmacy with the best price. Patients can also set up the GoodRx skill to send a reminder when it’s time to refill a prescription.
The current question and command level interaction level with voice assistants will develop quickly. The massive market potential to become users’ preferred interface has attracted big players such as Amazon, Google, and Apple. The huge tech companies continue to invest atmospheric-level resources to develop new smart speaker devices, compatible smart appliances, and user apps for a myriad of functions. The potential for technology companies to get even deeper and more personally involved with peoples’ lives ensures we’ll see many more health apps and voice assistant-compatible health tech soon.