DIGITAL HEALTH BRIEFING: Amazon Echo, Alexa get prescription price checks through GoodRx -- Cigna acquires digital health engagement firm Brighter -- Microsoft's AI-powered health app adds features

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GOODRX BRINGS PRESCRIPTION PRICE SEARCH TO AMAZON’S ALEXA:Prescription savings company GoodRx is introducing a voice app for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, according toMobiHealthNews. Consumers will be able to ask Alexa – the voice assistant that powers Amazon’s top-selling Echo smart speakers – about a particular prescription medication, dosage, and formulation. The voice assistant will then be able to give the user information on the cost of the drug at a variety of different pharmacies.

More broadly, the Echo could offer healthcare companies a new means of engaging with their patients and customers.And companies in the healthcare space have already started rolling out voice apps for Alexa. Here are some examples.

  • New York healthcare network Northwell Healthintroduced an Alexa skill aimed primarily at helping patients find and use its urgent care centres. Users can ask Alexa where the nearest location is to their zip code, for instance. The voice assistant can also tell the user what the expected wait time would be at an urgent care location or a hospital emergency department. California-based Sutter Health and Carolina-based Novant Health have introduced similar Alexa skills.
  • Cooey Health Monitoringhas released an Alexa skill that allows patients to check their health record using the voice assistant, acting as a new way for users to interact with the monitoring platform.

This is just the beginning for Alexa as a healthcare tool. Amazon has been improving its voice assistant platform, adding capabilities like reminders, which can be used to help coordinate timing for medications. And as Amazon wades into healthcare data processing with its AWS cloud platform, it will be able to offer partners a better means of communicating with many of their patients. For context, BI Intelligence forecasts the Echo device installed base will reach 70 million in 2022.

Amazon echo installed baseBI Intelligence

CIGNA ACQUIRES BRIGHTER TO BOLSTER ITS DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT TOOLS: Health insurance giant Cigna has acquired Brighter Inc., a digital health plan platform provider, to accelerate and expand its consumer initiatives and provider partnerships. Brighter licenses its SaaS digital platform and engagement services to health and dental organisations to help them to better reach their customers and participating providers. As part of the acquisition, Cigna will integrate Brighter’s digital capabilities to help:

  • Consumers more regularly and confidently engage with plans, providers, and wellness programs.
  • Providers to lower marketing, administrative, and patient-engagement expenses.
  • Employer plan sponsors to use data-driven recommendations for ongoing improvements.

Although Brighter will continue as a client-focused company serving the digital needs of current and prospective customers, it will also be used to accelerate the development of Cigna’s mobile and desktop platforms, essentially becoming Cigna’s “digital health engine”.

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MICROSOFT’S AI-POWERED HEALTH APP ADDS NEW FEATURES: Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, which helps those with visual impairments by narrating surroundings using a mobile device’s camera and AI technology, is adding three new capabilities. The app, which launched earlier this year and has been downloaded over 100,000 times, will now have the ability to recognise the colour of objects such as clothing, the types of currency a user might be holding, and handwritten notes or cards. There are an estimated 253 million people who live with vision impairment across the globe, according to the World Health Organisation.

STRIDE HEALTH SEES A TAILWIND FROM THE INDIVIDUAL MANDATE:Stride Health took advantage of the end of open enrollment – which finished last Friday – to help freelancers at companies in the gig economy get insurance coverage, reportsTechCrunch. Stride generates revenue by referring gig workers to insurers. The company has worked with freelancers that gig at a number of prominent companies including Uber and TaskRabbit. In the last few weeks, as the deadline to sign up for health insurance plans in order to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate approached, a number of companies have signed up with Stride, according to CEO Noah Lang. For context, up to43% of US workerscould be gig workers by 2020.

In other news…

  • Doctor.comandConnect Healthcare, a provider of healthcare management solutions, have merged under the Doctor.com brand. The merger will enable healthcare organisations to manage their provider data, patient feedback analysis, reputation monitoring, and online scheduling from one unified platform.
  • Elemeno Health,which provides virtual coaching software for healthcare teams, has completed a $US1.3 million seed round. Elemeno’s service is accessible from any device, enabling healthcare teams to easily access best practice guidelines, up-to-date checklists and how-to videos.

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