Amazon made an announcement that it is going to end support for third-party HIPAA-covered skills for its Alexa products, meaning developers won’t be able to make Alexa skills that gather information protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Amazon released its HIPAA-compliant Alexa function in April 2019, with skills included for patients of Boston Children’s Hospital, Atrium Health, Cigna, Livongo, Swedish Health Connect, and Express Scripts. The HIPAA compliance support is supposed to enable healthcare providers to use Alexa skills that gathered HIPAA-protected information and could send that data in a HIPAA-compliant manner. The decision to end that support is now going to take effect. HIPAA-covered skills are now included in the Alexa Smart Properties for Healthcare business devices, and those Alexa skills may only be created together with first-party support.
Amazon reviews its experiences on a regular basis to make sure it is providing services that will please its consumers. It is investing to a great extent in creating healthcare experiences together with first and third-party product developers, such as Alexa Smart Properties for Healthcare.
Amazon has already sent a letter to all third-party product developers advising them that it is ending the support for Alexa 3P HIPAA-covered skills this week and has instructed them to delete their HIPAA-covered skills from the skills store. Any skill that is not removed from the store by the developer will be deleted automatically on December 9, 2022, and the usage of that skill is going to be restricted. Any protected health information (PHI) linked to that skill will be erased and if any person tries to utilize a HIPAA-covered skill after it has been restricted, they will get a note that the skill is not supported. Amazon has stated that it is not going to directly notify users of the skills that support is stopping.
The stopping of third-party HIPAA-covered skills support doesn’t mean that Amazon is restricting all healthcare-associated Alexa skills. Just those Alexa skills that collect PHI will be restricted. Any healthcare-associated Alexa skill that does not collect information covered by HIPAA won’t be affected.