Amazon is ending support for third-party healthcare Alexa skills that allow users to ask the virtual assistant for booking a doctor’s appointment, accessing hospital post-discharge instructions, checking on the status of a prescription delivery, and more.

The Alexa healthcare program allowed patients to share Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-protected information with healthcare organizations through Alexa, reports Voicebot.ai.

The invite-only program was first launched in 2019 for select developers.

“There was no advance warning, just the email today,” a developer that created an Alexa skill with personal data governed under the HIPAA guidelines was quoted as saying.

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According to the company, it regularly reviews “experiences to ensure we are investing in services that will delight customers”.

“We are continuing to invest heavily in developing healthcare experiences with first and third-party developers, including Alexa Smart Properties for Healthcare,” said Amazon.

Amazon was always the only company offering a HIPAA-compliant option for third-party developers.

The company is winding up several Alexa initiatives as part of a major cost-cutting exercise. The massive job cuts have hit several divisions at the company, especially the Alexa virtual assistant business.

As of next week, there will be no general-purpose voice assistant that independent developers can use to build voice experiences if HIPAA-eligible data can be collected, the report noted.

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