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NHS Health Advice Delivered by Amazon Alexa

Could your smart speaker improve your health?

NHS Health Advice Delivered by Amazon Alexa

Smart speakers are a popular addition to the British home these days. Countless consumers rely on their hubs for things like controlling their music, ordering food, and even finding out information. Soon, thanks to a new partnership between Amazon and the NHS, you’ll also be able to access expert health advice from your Alexa device.

The voice-assisted application will automatically search through the NHS website whenever a UK user asks for advice about their health. The English government has said that this simple feature could help the NHS to handle growing demand. Although privacy campaigners have raised some concerns about potential data protection issues, Amazon has reassured them that their information will remain confidential.

The partnership between Amazon and NHS was initially announced in 2018, and talks are now underway with other companies like Microsoft so that further arrangements can be established. Previously, Alexa delivered health information based on a variety of popular online searches.

Responding to the Rise of Voice Search

The use of voice search is on the rise as consumers become more comfortable using their voice-assisted virtual assistants on smartphones and speakers. The health industry believes that the growth of this new technology could support some vulnerable patients, like older adults and those with visual impairment issues, who may otherwise struggle to access the internet using traditional means.

Amazon’s algorithm will now be using expert information from the NHS website to provide the answers to questions like “What are the symptoms of a migraine,” or “How do I treat a burn.” According to the UK Government Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, the decision to embrace this new technology is a fantastic step forward for the NHS. He hopes that the tech will reduce the pressure on hard-working pharmacists and GPs.

The new partnership between Amazon and the NHS should empower patients to take better control of their approach to healthcare. However, the announcement has drawn criticism from the group “Big Brother Watch.” The director of the group, Silkie Carlo, said that healthcare is made more difficult to access when privacy and trust are removed. Unfortunately, privacy campaigners believe that the collaboration between NHS and Amazon will lead to severe problems with patient privacy. However, Amazon has announced that it will not be sharing any information with third-parties or building customer profiles. According to Amazon, all data is encrypted and kept confidential.

Creating a More Tech-Savvy NHS

The collaboration with Amazon Alexa is part of an overarching strategy to make the NHS more tech-savvy. The government has set up the new NHSX unit to boost the acceptance of digital technology in the healthcare space. Among the measures being pursued today are expansions in AI and electronic prescription services.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, British medical academic and GP, said that the move has potential – particularly when it comes to dealing with minor injuries and ailments. However, she also said that it’s essential for independent research to be done to ensure that the advice given is safe. Lampard noted that the advice should not stop people from seeking proper medical help when necessary.

 

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1 Comment
Ian TaylorIan Taylor 14:05, 17 Jul 2019

There seems to be no end to the (voice search-related) abilities of Alexa – with particular benefits for those that are less able to use the web via more usual methods – there will always be privacy concerns, of course.

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