Patients can now ask Alexa for an appointment at Apollo Hospitals, a large chain of healthcare centers in India. Apollo patients with access to an Amazon Echo or another Alexa-powered device can use the new Ask Apollo skill to arrange a visit with a specific doctor or find an available specialist.
ASKING APOLLO FOR A CONSULTATION
The Ask Apollo Alexa skill was designed by Apollo and MobiSprint Consulting to speed up the process of making appointments at Apollo’s range of hospitals and clinics. The voice skill extends the Ask Apollo platform the hospital group launched back in 2015. Once the skill is added, users can connect it to their Alexa profile. When the skill is opened, patients can ask about the nearest of the 72 Apollo hospitals in India and make an appointment with one of the more than 5,000 doctors working at those hospitals. They can also use the skill to set a preference for both a hospital and a pharmacy.
“The mass adoption of artificial intelligence in the lives of people has fuelled the shift towards voice applications and the number of IoT devices have given voice assistants more utility in a connected user’s life,” Apollo Hospitals joint managing director Sangita Reddy said in a statement. “With our Alexa skill, Apollo Hospitals has become the first and largest healthcare group in India to power voice-assisted hospital search and appointment booking. We will be adding more features to the skill in the near future.”
The point of the Ask Apollo skill is to make it simpler and faster for people to arrange visits to their healthcare providers. That benefits both the patients and the hospitals, reducing the resources necessary on both ends to set up appointments. It also fits with the growing interest in applying AI and voice assistant technology to healthcare. A recent Voicebot survey found that more than half of U.S. adults are interested in making voice assistants part of their healthcare and Apollo must sense some demand for the skill in India.
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Applying voice and AI to health is becoming a global trend. The British city of Wolverhampton is experimenting with applying artificial intelligence to its health services in a partnered with health tech firm Babylon to bring the company’s app to residents, including arranging meetings with doctors and an AI-powered interactive checklist with a chatbot to suggest if a visit to the doctor is necessary. Alexa is also a part of Britain’s digital health strategy, with the National Health Service’s database now being used to answer questions about health posed to the voice assistant.
Now is a good moment for Apollo to add an Alexa skill as India is having something of a boom in the industry. Amazon just started selling the Echo Show 8 in India and debuted its new portable smart speaker, the Echo Input, exclusively in the country in December. Amazon also added support for Hindi and Hinglish to Alexa in September, although the Apollo skill is only in English. Starting the voice app with Alexa makes sense as about three-fifths of smart speakers in India are made by Amazon. Google makes all but 2% of the rest in the country, according to a report last year from IDC. Apollo is in good shape to add Google Assistant to the options for its voice skill as Ask Apollo is already an app in the Google Play Store. Apollo is setting itself up at the perfect intersection of the growth in the voice market in India and the health industry and could be the model for future hospital voice apps.