'Alexa' can also search for medical help

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If there isn't a doctor in the house, Amazon's voice assistant Alexa will soon be able to call one.

Amazon and telemedicine provider Teladoc Health have launched a voice-activated virtual care program that allows customers to get medical help without having to pick up the phone.

The service, for non-emergency health issues, will be available at all times on Amazon Echo devices. Customers will be able to tell their Alexa voice assistant that they want to speak to a doctor, and that will prompt the device to call a doctor from Teladoc.

The program, which was announced Monday, marks Amazon's latest expansion into health care and another push by the retail giant into a form of care that grew rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Telehealth is now something that patients have become accustomed to and can come to expect as an option for their care,” said Lori Uscher-Pines, senior policy researcher at the Rand Corp. “Before the pandemic, there may not have been there was so much awareness that it was a service that was available”.

Amazon already dispenses prescription drugs and is expanding an Amazon Care program it launched in 2019 that offers telemedicine visits with the option to send a patient care provider if you need an in-person visit.

Insurers and the companies that pay medical bills are pushing this as a way to improve health and reduce hospital stays or other large medical expenses.

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