Westmed Medical Group, a multispecialty outpatient practice serving Westchester County, NY and Fairfield County, CT, has launched a new Amazon Alexa skill designed to enhance digital connectivity for its patients. The skill provides Westmed’s community the option to make appointments and access other services through Alexa’s voice-activation technology.
The skill, which bears the same name as the practice’s patient portal, “My Westmed,” is available on Alexa-enabled devices. Users can search for My Westmed in the skills section of the Alexa app or simply ask Alexa to enable the skill. The skill lets users connect to certain features in Westmed’s patient portal on devices including Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Amazon Tap, and Amazon Fire TV through voice commands. Alexa can search for a Westmed provider in any specialty and book an appointment. Users can also use their voice to locate and save a spot in line at the nearest Westmed urgent care facility or schedule a COVID-19 test at the facility. And users can access COVID-19 related health resources using their voice at any time.
Westmed operates 13 clinics within its service area, making it a relatively small health system. The new skill currently offers useful but limited options. But this smaller company may have ushered in the next big addition to the virtual healthcare spectrum. Voice-activated access to digital services provides equity for non-reading, non-typing, or non-mobile patients; it also enhances convenience and reduces the time commitment needed to navigate a patient portal on a computer or mobile device.
Some patients might be reluctant to use the service, due to privacy concerns regarding voice analysis data. However, that might not be a formidable barrier, as those who already use Alexa on a home device have likely made peace with sharing their voice via digital connections. Westmed’s Alexa skill is a precursor for voice-enabled patient portals and other digital health tools that facilitate video connections and text chats with providers, pharmacy communication, completion of forms, access to medical records, and a broad range of educational resources. We should expect those options will soon become intrinsic to the post-COVID virtual healthcare landscape.