March 14, 2018

Cigna tapping Amazon's Alexa to help define insurance terminology

Bloomfield health insurer Cigna is entering the voice-control space with the launch of an "Answers by Cigna" service for Amazon Alexa, aimed at simplifying health benefits information.

The new hands-free service is designed to demystify language about health care by providing answers to more than 150 commonly asked healthcare questions, Cigna said.

The "Answers by Cigna" service is available to anyone in the Amazon Alexa Skills Store or by saying, "Alexa, enable Answers by Cigna." The service allows users to ask health-related questions such as "What's a formulary?"

A 2017 survey on health literacy found that 20 percent of respondents did not understand the word "premium" and 66 percent did not understand the word "formulary." When people do not understand the terms used in their health plan, they are less likely to take full advantage of their benefits, Cigna said.

The development follows a digital health hackathon in Hartford last month in which an aspiring team of entrepreneurs developed a concept that would allow customers to ask Alexa questions about their specific health insurance coverage. Judges thought the concept was the best to emerge over the hackathon weekend, which earned the team a $5,000 cash prize from Cigna.

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