Alexa will search NHS website to answer health questions

Alexa to answer health questions in bid to 'ease pressure' on NHS | ITV News

Alexa to answer health questions in bid to 'ease pressure' on NHS | ITV News

The UK government said yesterday that Britons will be able to get an answer to this and other simple medical questions from the National Health Service (NHS) using their Amazon smart speakers.

This has been a long time coming.

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. Getting pointers on treating the common cold from the couch could save trips to the doc or pharmacy drop-ins.

Other criticism has come from those concerned over Amazon's unfettered access to the publicly-funded NHS database.

The technology will aim 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 via simple voice commands. Maybe, just maybe, this could also save some from going down an online rabbit hole into rubbish health forums.

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

But it also goes without saying that patients with complex healthcare needs shouldn't fully rely on Alexa as their only source of advice, not to mention raising questions about privacy and data security. And by 2020 it is estimated that half of the searches will be through voice-assisted technology.

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.

However, the move to team up Amazon and the NHS has been met with scepticism.

In the age of the European General Data Protection Rule, the United Kingdom allowing a USA company to hold this personal information seems disingenuous.

Amazon on Wednesday sought to reassure users that their information will be kept confidential, and not shared with third parties, used to sell products or to build a health profile. This should make it much easier to get relief.

Still don't trust a virtual assistant for potentially life-threatening issues?

Britons who ask Alexa basic health questions like "Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?" and "Alexa, what are the symptoms of flu?" will be given answers vetted by NHS health professionals and now available on its website. "Otherwise it could prevent people seeking proper medical help and create even more pressure on our overstretched GP service".

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