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Amazon's Alexa Learns HIPAA: What it Means for Your Business

Amazon HIPPA Compliant voice searchAmazon has launched new HIPAA-compliant skills aimed at improving voice services in healthcare fields. All of these skills will now transmit health-related information via voice within the confines established by HIPAA.

While HIPAA-compliant voice features have been on the horizon for some time now, this marks a significant step towards progress in the $3.5 trillion healthcare industry. While healthcare has lagged behind other consumer-facing industries when it comes to technology, this new software coming out of Amazon appears to be the light at the end of the tunnel.

The announcement was accompanied by six healthcare apps launched by some of the larger healthcare companies.

  • Express Scripts
  • Cigna Health Today
  • My Children's Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS)
  • Swedish Health Connect
  • Atrium Health
  • Livongo

Currently, these six healthcare companies are the only ones that have access to HIPAA-compliant Amazon Skill Kits, but Amazon's Thursday announcement hinted that they expect "additional developers to make use of these skills in the future."

Amazon's Push into Healthcare

Tech companies have been eyeing healthcare for years. Federal regulations, unique compliance nuances, and extra-secure privacy measures have been the barriers preventing most of them from entering. But, penetrating a $3.5 trillion market is obviously as lucrative as it is tempting. Amazon is giving in to the temptation.

The build-up has definitely been noticeable. Last year, Amazon purchased PillPack for under $1 billion — which many saw as a move into the pill shipping and handling business. Around the same time, Amazon announced AWS's move towards HIPAA-compliance in the machine learning space by introducing three new tools into its pipeline — including the new Amazon Comprehend Medical for medical insights.

This Alexa-specific news shows us all something important — real change is coming to healthcare. It's not just the behind-the-scenes moves in machine learning and AI; Amazon is introducing tangible consumer-facing technology as well.

For SMBs this news is HUGE. Even if you don't work in healthcare, these recent releases should highlight just how important voice is becoming in all business channels. From healthcare to eCommerce, the time to invest in voice strategies was yesterday.

Understanding Alexa and Google

The first thing that comes to mind when we think "Alexa optimization" is SEO. Don't worry! Optimizing for Alexa will help optimize you for ALL voice searches. Which is pretty crucial given that 35.6 million American consumers use voice assistants at least once a month.

Let's look at five critical components of voice search in the SEO space.

  1. Voice search is all about intent. In the past, everything was about keywords. But, with voice, natural language and intent are captaining the ship. This means creating content that's focused less on keywords and more on conversations.
  2. Local search is crazy important with voice. If you are a local business, Google My Business is huge. Getting into the local pack can be make-or-break for you. Since voice search returns local pack searches BEFORE regular organic searches, it's critical that you optimize your Google My Business page with rich content and reviews.
  3. Rise of the long-tails. Since voice is heavily intent-driven, long-tail keywords are insanely valuable. Incorporating specific questions and long-tail keywords in your website content can help you boost your voice search presence.
  4. Be mobile friendly. Since the VAST majority of voice search happens on mobile devices, you need to have a mobile-optimized site. Plus, Google has a mobile-first indexer. So, it's basically a necessity at this point.
  5. Use an auditor. Want to see how well your website is optimized for search? Use an auditing tool like Google’s web audit to discover areas of your site in need of improvement.  

How SMBs Can Prepare For Tomorrow, Today

Voice search is a lot of things. It's convenient. It's progressive. But, most of all, it's customer-centric. SMBs have to change the way they think about their customers. It's no longer about who can deliver the best product at the best price. It’s predicted that branding will overtake both price and product as the key differentiator by next year.

Your brand is a reflection of your customer journey. People want convenience, sure, but they also want to be heard. For years, the primary emphasis has been on customer service as a preventative mechanism. It's the final step in the journey that convinces people not to leave. Voice tech has the power to make customers lives easier. But, it also has the ability to make them feel special. It talks to them and listens to them. Then, it helps them find what they're looking for.

Final Thoughts

The future of voice-enabled healthcare is around the corner. With Amazon rising to the challenge, other major tech firms are soon-to-follow. If you're a business that operates in the healthcare industry, you need to be prepared for the changes. This involves baking some voice strategies into your marketing campaigns. Really, every business, healthcare or not, needs to be prepared for the rise of voice.

To keep up-to-date on Alexa's HIPAA skills, check out Amazon's official updates waitlist.

If you want to start creating a forward-thinking voice strategy, but you don't know where to start — contact us.

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