Mayo Clinic adds COVID-19 skills to Amazon Alexa

A self-assessment tool helps users gauge symptoms to determine whether they might qualify for testing and offers guidance on when to seek medical care.
By Nathan Eddy
01:31 PM

Mayo Clinic has added a skill set to Amazon's Alexa home devices such as the Echo and Echo Dot called "Answers on COVID-19," which offers users the latest information about symptoms, prevention and how to cope with the situation, responding to voice commands only.

WHY IT MATTERS
Among the skills are a COVID-19 self-assessment tool, which helps users assess symptoms and determine whether they're candidates for testing. 

It also offers guidance on when to seek medical care and what to do in the meantime, with information based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and Mayo Clinic expert opinion.

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Before users can access its features, they must first enable the skill on an Alexa-equipped device by saying, "Alexa, open Mayo Clinic Answers on COVID-19." After that they can ask questions about COVID-19, such as "What are the symptoms of coronavirus?"

THE LARGER TREND
The voice-activated applications for Alexa add capabilities to Alexa-enabled devices and mobile devices with speech-recognition technology. Amazon has made a series of skills available that address COVID-19 specifically, which offer the ability to answer tens of thousands of questions related to the pandemic in countries around the world.

For example, using guidance from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Indian Council for Medical Research, customers in India can use Alexa to check their symptoms for COVID-19 at home.

In the U.S., following CDC guidance the Alexa health team built an experience that lets users deploy Alexa to check risk levels for COVID-19 at home.

Mayo Clinic had previously launched a skill for Alexa-based devices called the "Mayo Clinic First-Aid" skill, which offers expert self-care guidance for treating dozens of incidents.

Healthcare organizations are turning to a variety of remote care and telehealth solutions to reduce the strain on overloaded health systems and minimize physical contact with people and with objects that could transmit the virus. Bendigo Health rolled out a remote-monitoring system for suspected COVID-19 patients in Australia.

Meanwhile, uninsured Massachusetts residents now have 24-7 access to free COVID-19 telehealth visits following a new partnership between Doctor on Demand and the Commonwealth.

ON THE RECORD
"With a rapidly developing pandemic like COVID-19, delivering trusted health information on how to respond to our patients and the public is critical," said Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, a Mayo Clinic physician and medical director for Mayo's Health Education and Content Services, in a statement. 

"For Mayo Clinic, voice technologies allow us to deliver information and care when, where and how people wish to access it," she said. "Accurate, easily accessible information is key to fighting this pandemic, and voice technologies are another avenue to get information to the public."

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.com
Twitter: @dropdeaded209

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