Giant Eagle has enlisted Amazon’s Alexa virtual personal assistant to help keep pharmacy patients up to date on their medications.
Under a collaboration with Amazon and medication management specialist Omnicell, Giant Eagle pharmacies now allow patients to set medication reminders and request prescription drug refills through Alexa. Users simply speak to an Amazon Echo device by saying “Alexa, manage my medication” or “Alexa, refill my prescriptions,” and the request is met using the patient’s prescription information at their designated Giant Eagle pharmacy.
To use the new service, which Amazon said launched just before the Thanksgiving holiday, customers first must enable Giant Eagle Pharmacy Skill in the Alexa mobile app, create an account, verify prescription information and set a four-digit personal passcode for security. They also will have to set up an Alexa voice profile if they don’t have one.
“We’re thrilled to help our Giant Eagle Pharmacy patients more easily integrate prescription management into their everyday lives with the introduction of the Giant Eagle Pharmacy skill,” Jim Tsipakis, senior vice president of pharmacy at Giant Eagle, said in a statement. “We’re passionate about making care as accessible as possible for our patients, and this unique collaboration with Amazon has enabled us to utilize voice technology to do just that.”
Giant Eagle pharmacy patients can use voice commands to set up pill reminders or request prescription refills. (Image courtesy of Giant Eagle)
Giant Eagle operates more than 200 pharmacies inside its 216 supermarkets in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland. The Pittsburgh-based food and drug chain is the first pharmacy retailer to offer the new medication management capability with Alexa.
“The new Alexa medication reminders and voice refill request features will be available for customers of all Giant Eagle pharmacies,” according to Rachael Jiang, head of Alexa Health & Wellness at Amazon. “We’ll learn a lot from this initial launch, and we’ll continue to evolve the experience and expect to expand to additional pharmacies next year.”
Jiang noted in a blog post that the idea for the new service emerged when Amazon discovered that customers already were including medications in the daily tasks they managed via Alexa.
“After receiving a number of stories and reviews from customers, we noticed a trend: Many customers were using Alexa to remind them to take medications on a regular basis,” she explained. “Some customers shared feedback to improve the reminders feature for this use case — for example, by adding more time frames like ‘twice a day’ — and others shared personal stories about how this feature benefited them and their families. With each story, we continued to think about how we could help customers track and manage their health and wellness from home.”
Once Giant Eagle pharmacy patients have enabled the service, they say, "Alexa, manage my medication," to begin setting up their reminders. Alexa then helps the customer review current prescriptions and schedule medication reminders based on when he or she prefers to take each medicine. When the reminder is triggered, customers can ask, "Alexa, what medication am I supposed to take right now?" They also can use Alexa to get a refill from their pharmacy by saying, "Alexa, refill my prescription."
Alexa first recognizes users by voice and then requests their personal passcode. If the voice profile or personal passcode doesn’t match with the account, information won’t be provided. And on the privacy side, interactions with the Giant Eagle Pharmacy Skill are redacted in the Alexa, and patients can review and delete their voice recordings at any time.
Medication nonadherence has been identified as a leading cause of negative health care outcomes. According to Danny Sanchez, vice president and general manager of population health solutions at Omnicell, voice interaction provides an easy way for patients to stick to their prescription drug regimens. Mountain View, Calif.-based Omnicell provides of medication management solutions and adherence tools to pharmacies and health systems.
“Integrating with Amazon Alexa makes it possible for patients to manage their medications by simply using voice, providing greater independence for older adults and the ultimate convenient, frictionless patient experience for everyone,” Sanchez commented. “This new technology is just the beginning, as we continue to identify straightforward and easy-to-use pharmacy tasks that voice-powered devices can perform in the real world to keep the patient at the center of care and streamline pharmacy workflow.”