Acorda taps Amazon's Alexa to build MS awareness
- Biotech Acorda Therapeutics has taken to the cloud to launch a new skill, MS Awareness Facts, for Amazon's voice-activated computer Echo — one part of the Acorda's promotion efforts around Multiple Sclerosis Awareness month.
- On the voice command "Alexa, start MS Awareness", Echo's voice-recognition personality Alexa will read aloud a random selection from almost 50 MS facts and tips sourced from Acorda's own app, MS self.
- While a relatively limited addition to the vast stores of disease information available online, Acorda's tapping of Amazon's Alexa points to the growing, but still largely unrealized, potential of new digital products to drive adoption of telemedicine and digital health.
What do people usually ask Amazon's Echo?
According to The Economist, however, Alexa is being asked a growing number of healthcare questions. Groups like the American Heart Association have teamed up with Amazon to teach Alexa to recite instructions for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, for example.
Acorda's efforts with the voice-recognition service are similarly focused on delivering education, although hopefully in less of a crisis situation.
"Education is an important component of each person’s fight against multiple sclerosis," said Michael Russo, head of corporate digital strategy and innovation at Acorda Therapeutics. "As we move towards becoming an increasingly digital society, it’s important that we provide solutions that match the way people live and work, and in this case that means voice search."
Consumers already use apps, sensors and wearables for healthcare, from activity and sleep trackers to heart rate and blood pressure monitors. The pharmaceutical industry also sees value in digital technology, as patient support services could help improve patient administration of and adherence to medicine, change behavior or otherwise improve outcomes.
While Alexa's current offerings on MS are just a recitation of randomized and pre-programmed information, voice services could become a route for delivering patient and family education on treatment and lifestyle changes related to chronic diseases such as diabetes.
Accorda has a treatment for MS, Ampyra (dalfampridine), currently approved in the U.S. to help improve walking in patients. The Ardsley, New York-based biotech is also developing an inhalable version of levodopa as well as a treatment to reduce off time for people with Parkinson's disease.
- Acorda Therapeutics Press release
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