Ask Dr Alexa to provide you with NHS health advice
FAMILIES will be able to “Ask Alexa” to help diagnose health problems under a deal between Amazon and the NHS.
Patients will be able to receive Nhs verified health information through simple voice commands on the device.
Officials insisted that the technology would not allow Amazon to store health data that could allow it to direct advertising at those using the service, but its algorithms will use information from the NHS website to provide answers to questions such as: “Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?” or “Alexa, what are the symptoms of chickenpox?”
Health officials said the “world-first collaboration” would allow people to take more control of their own care and had the potential to significantly reduce pressure on hospitals and GPS.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: “We want to empower every patient to take better control of their
healthcare, and technology like this is a great example of how people can access reliable, world-leading NHS advice from the comfort of their home, reducing the pressure on our hardworking GPS and pharmacists.”
Voice search has caught on rapidly in recent years. Experts predict that by 2020, half of all internet searches will be via voice-assisted technology. It follows pledges to make the NHS “digital first” within a decade and able to provide online and video consultations.
Prof Helen Stokes-lampard, of the Royal College of GPS, said better access to advice could relieve the pressure on doctors, ensuring they saw fewer patients with minor ailments.
However, she raised concerns that the devices could create a “digital divide”, with better access for those who could afford the technology. She said: “While some patients might want to use symptom-checkers in this way, not everyone will be happy to do so … technology can be brilliant when used appropriately and is playing an increasingly important part in the way we deliver care, but we must be careful not to create a ‘digital divide’ between those patients who can afford it and are able to use it, and those who can’t.”
She also called for independent research to ensure advice given was safe. “Patients who are frail often have more complex healthcare needs so it is important they do not rely on this as their sole source of health advice,” she said.
Officials said a new unit, NHSX, would look at making more services available to patients via technology.
Matthew Gould, head of NHSX, said: “The public need to be able to get reliable information about their health easily and in ways they actually use.
“By working closely with Amazon and other tech companies, we can ensure that the millions of users looking for health information every day can get simple, validated advice at the touch of a button or voice command.”