UK health service to use Amazon Alexa to give medical advice

Leslie Hanson
July 13, 2019

Amazon's Alexa will soon be answering medical questions asked by United Kingdom users, thanks to a partnership with the country's National Health Service (NHS).

It's created to help patients, especially the elderly, blind and those who can not access the internet through traditional means, to get professional, NHS-verified health information in seconds, through simple voice commands.

Amazon's algorithm should be able to answer questions such as: 'Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?', and 'Alexa, what are the symptoms of chickenpox?'

Meanwhile, UK's Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said that the move could allow people access to NHS's reliable, world-leading clinical advice from the comfort of their home, further reducing pressure on the country's hardworking Global Positioning System and pharmacists.

The effort is part of a 1 billion pound initiative to transform digital innovation in the NHS.

In April, Amazon rolled out HIPAA-compliant skills for Alexa and announced the first six healthcare organizations, including Cigna and Atrium Health, now currently building voice skills that can securely transmit private patient health information.

He said that he did not own an Alexa-enabled device "and I wouldn't want one", adding: "I don't want one because I think there is an essential humanity that we have got to preserve".

The UK health department said it expected half of all symptom checks and other medical queries to be made through voice-assisted technology by next year.

"Amazon is a company with a worrying track record when it comes to the way they handle their users' data", said Privacy International.

NHSX, a new unit driving forward the digital transformation of health and social care, will look at ways of making more NHS services available to all patients through digital technology.

"Healthcare is made inaccessible when trust and privacy is stripped away, and that's what this bad plan would do".

She said: 'This idea is certainly interesting and it has the potential to help some patients work out what kind of care they need before considering whether to seek face-to-face medical help, especially for minor ailments that rarely need a GP appointment, such as coughs and colds that can be safely treated at home. It's a data protection disaster waiting to happen'.

With voice-search technology on the rise, the DOH's decision will likely benefit aged people and people with visual impairments, who might in any other case struggle to search for such info on devices with screens.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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