The Alpha Particle Perspective: Alexa Healthcare Skills

Amazon announced last month that Alexa will now select partners in the healthcare industry to build skills that transmit protected health information in what they’re calling a new “HIPPA-eligible environment”.

The skills that are launching as part of the new program allow users to:

  • Check and request notifications regarding the status of prescription delivery
  • Find an urgent care center and schedule a same day appointment
  • Update child care teams on progress of post-surgery recovery and receive additional appointment information
  • Ask for their latest blood sugar reading, learn about their personal trends and receive insights about this data
  • Manage health improvement goals

Despite some of these skills being potentially complex, some are a great fit for a voice interface.

What makes a good voice interface?

Navigating automated voice menus can be more frustrating than necessary. It always feels as though by the time you’re asked to “Press 9 for…” you’ve already forgotten what you were trying to accomplish in the first place. Voice interfaces are different as they function more like a conversation, with one clear choice or action to take at a time. This is also a departure from web or mobile design, where users handle multiple options in front of them on a screen at the same time.

Voice has some clear advantages, given that is can ask a user one question and provide one answer. It is also more accessible to many users, especially those that are visually impaired. However, for a skill to realize these advantages, some design conventions need to be followed.

For a voice interface to be good, it has to have a clear, established flow from beginning to end. If one gets lost during the flow on a web interface, it’s easier for a user to click around and start over. But on a voice interface, its functionality and user-friendliness is highly dependent on the flow being one that is universally easy to follow.

While a voice interface has its benefits, it’s still quite difficult to obtain accurate complex information through it, like usernames, passwords, locations, menu selections, or others. Many skills compensate for this difficulty by having the user enter the required information online, and then linking the user’s account on their service through a device.

To cite an example, the Lyft skill allows users to book a Lyft from either home or work addresses previously saved to the app. The Dominos skill saves favorite and recent orders, which allows you to quickly re-order the same items without having to enter each one individually. With that in mind, let’s take a look at one of these skills that fits this criteria.

Swedish Health Connect Skill

The Swedish Health Connect Skill equips their registered users with the ability to link their accounts to Alexa. They can then schedule appointments according to their own convenience. As they describe it:

Get started with booking same-day or next-day appointments by saying “Alexa, open Swedish Health Connect”. Alexa will suggest the next available appointments at a Swedish Express Care Clinic near your home. Need to be more specific? Just say, “Alexa, ask Swedish Health Connect to schedule an appointment tomorrow at 8 am.” Or open the skill and say “Schedule an appointment today after 6 pm.”

Swedish Health Connect

This provides the user with a clear path through the skill to accomplish their desired functionality. When the skill opens, it prompts the user right away with suggestions for a nearby facility, based on information it already knows about the user’s location. As we noted above, the pathway through the skill is made easier by the fact that the user already entered this information online and doesn’t have to be prompted for it.

The user is also presented with a few different options, all of which are related to the action of scheduling an appointment, with variations on times and certain specificities. The skill has a clear purpose, with clear call to actions throughout, and without trying to do too much.

How can voice interface change your business?

Interested in exploring a voice interface like this for your business? Reach out using the contact form below or email us directly at, and let’s discuss how we can help.

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