Alexa... Dr. Alexa to you!

Anna Otieno, Head of Research, Strategy & Insights

Carli Gernot, Content Development Specialist

What’s Up

Amazon has expanded its suite of health care solutions with the introduction of an Alexa-based physician service.

Telemedicine provider, Teladoc Health, is partnering with Amazon on the virtual care program, which is voice-only for the time being, but with potential for video visits in the future. After telling the voice assistant, “Alexa, I want to talk to a doctor,” users will be connected to a Teladoc call center through their Echo device — the service works with any Echo hardware. After collecting the necessary information, the patient receives a return call from a doctor. Users without insurance will be charged $75 per visit.

Doctors will usually call patients back the same day, but the pandemic may impact wait times. According to Amazon, the omnichannel retail giant will not be able to access, record, or store the content of these medical visit calls. The physician service is the latest health care offering from Amazon, and joins the Care Hub, which offers management and diagnostic tools with an option for an in-home nurse visit, as well as Alexa Together, a paid elderly care service.

What It Means

A connected home is outfitted with smart speakers and gadgets to help streamline modern life. Indeed, many consumers feel as though telehealth options are most attractive because they are simply easier. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Connectivity & Mobile Trends report, 44% of US adults say that “ease of appointments” was the top reason for choosing telehealth appointments.

During the pandemic, the demand for telehealth skyrocketed and many people maintain their interest in this more convenient way to receive health care. The American Psychiatric Association found that 43% of Americans said they want to continue with telehealth visits even after the pandemic.

The ease of “seeing” a doctor through a smart speaker is appealing to many, but also poses some questions around privacy. Amazon and other telehealth providers need to stay transparent around patient privacy and make it simple for users to manage privacy preferences. The ability to manage that data will become more important as connected functionality advances.

As more drugstores and grocery stores adopt autonomous delivery, it’s easy to imagine a virtual doctor’s visit followed quickly by an automatic delivery of just what the doctor ordered, including prescriptions, food & drink, or any other health/medical items the patient needs. This expansion into telehealth means that the Prime delivery effect — the expectation that everything can be delivered in 2 days — is bound to impact other players in the health space.

Telehealth now is something that patients have gotten used to and may come to expect as an option for their care. Before the pandemic, there might not have been this much awareness that this was a service that was available." Lori Uscher-Pines, senior policy researcher with Rand Corp, to The New York Post, 02.28.22

As consumers become more accustomed to this instant access to doctors and increasingly fast delivery of care and products, health care and wellness brands will need to display value in more obvious ways in order to stand out. We may well see consumer expectations shift in terms of when — and where — they are able to meet with a doctor, and that can open up more space in their lives for preventative wellness endeavors.

Wellness brands have opportunities here to serve up products and services that work to plug into this healthcare ecosystem. Think plant-based food makers offering deals to patients who have been recommended to change up their diet, or a nearby gym sending out welcome packets to those who are just graduating from physical therapy.

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