First Databank partners with Amazon to provide drug info on Alexa devices

Steven Loeb · March 3, 2020 · Short URL:

This is the first time FDB is crafting responses for a voice-enabled device

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The surge in popularity of voice-enabled devices in recent years has been fairly remarkable to watch, going from just 13 percent of homes in 2018 to a projected 55 percent in 2022. These devices are quickly becoming ubiquitous and they're going to have an impact on every aspect of our lives.

Voice-enabled devices are going to be especially helpful when it comes to our healthcare; not everyone can easily see a prescription label, or read the instructions that come with their drugs, putting limitations on patients, and also potentially causing them harm.

That kind of issue should soon become a thing of the past as First Databank (FDB), a provider of drug and medical device knowledge, revealed on Tuesday that it has partnered with Amazon to allow people to ask make inquiries about drug information on Alex devices.

"The application of voice-enabled technology is becoming pervasive throughout healthcare," Bob Katter, president of FDB, told VatorNews.

"The ease of use and increasing affordability of the platform point toward a likely steep growth curve for voice-enabled health information. Voice-enabled technology serves as a logical complement to telehealth initiatives as well as traditional healthcare delivery, along with healthcare apps."

Through this partnership, customers will be able to access ask their Alexas device about clinical drug information that is authored specifically for Alexa by FDB clinicians. That will include information about drug interactions, side effects, precautions, and the drug’s class. The information will be available in both English and Spanish and will be updated on a regular basis.

Founded in 1977, FDB, which is a division of Heart Health, provides drug and medical device databases, with goal of helping people, such as clinicians, business personnel, and consumers, make informed decisions about medications and achieve the best possible outcomes.

"We provide the medication information inside many software platforms that consumers and their healthcare providers are already leveraging today," Katter said.

Prior to the partnership with Amazon, FDB had been providing drug information, including drug searches online, in the pharmacy, in EHR patient portals, as well as other places. This is the first time that information will be available via a voice-enabled device, and Katter expects it to be especially impactful for patients who have problems seeing, as well as those who have trouble reading. 

"Consumers will be provided with more meaningful, reliable, patient-friendly, up-to-date, customized answers to a wide variety of commonly asked medication questions for the most commonly prescribed drugs. We expect consumers will become more informed about medications leading to improved medication adherence and improved health outcomes," he said.

"We expect that delivering information via voice-enabled technology will lead to a more health-literate consumer with an enhanced knowledge of their medication regimen. Consumers need to be stewards of their own health and having easy access through Amazon Alexa will go a long way toward achieving that goal."

For FDB, putting their information on a voice-enabled device required taking complex information and boiling it down to concise answers that could easily be spoken aloud, while also making sure they reflected the most important clinical information. They also had to be easy for consumers to understand. 

The two companies have been working together for the last several months, refining questions and answers, and the true benefit for FDB in the partnership with Amazon, Katter said, is that it is helping the company better understand what kinds of questions patients ask, and which responses they are most receptive to, giving the company a greater insight into what content works best for consumers.

"Amazon’s vision for providing credible, authoritative human curated, evidence-based medication information for consumers meshed with ours. Amazon understands, like most experts in this field, including us, that big data and AI get the best results when combined with human curated content," he explained.

"We are continuing to work with Amazon to enhance the Alexa service. When our content is integrated into our partners’ software systems, we typically enjoy long and fruitful relationships with our customers, some for more than three decades. We hold the same expectation for partnership with Amazon."

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