We’ve probably all seen the ads for Amazon’s Alexa device, or even tested it ourselves, so we know that the tool can be equal parts fun (playing music, telling jokes) and useful (making to-do lists, checking the weather). Now, thanks to a new Amazon-Merck challenge for app developers, Alexa could be playing a new role for patients seeking to manage Type 2 diabetes: health coach. As mHealth Intelligence first reported, Amazon and Merck will be awarding $125,000 to the developer who creates the best “Alexa voice-enabled solution” for diabetes management. “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and isolated on the path to self-management, especially for people who are newly diagnosed,” the two companies explained in announcing the challenge. “Amazon Alexa has the potential to be a new partner for this journey.”
Entrants have until May 22 to put together their initial submissions, after which five finalists will each receive a prize of $25,000 and be invited to join the Amazon Virtual Accelerator. During this phase, finalists will be given resources and support as they work to further develop their ideas. Finally, after a day of live demos in New York City before the panel of yet-to-be-announced judges and others, a grand-prize winner will be selected.
Notably, recent studies have shown the benefits of apps and telehealth technologies for the prevention and treatment of diabetes, which impacts more than 29 million Americans and accounts for approximately $245 billion in health care spending each year. For their part, Amazon and Merck see the developer challenge as a way to leverage technologies that many diabetes patients are already using for other purposes for use in disease management. “By tapping into this digital ecosystem, the universe of possibilities expands, and with it the potential to transform diabetes self-management and improve the lives of millions of people,” they note.