Published: Sat, July 13, 2019
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Alexa to help United Kingdom docs - but what about privacy?

Alexa to help United Kingdom docs - but what about privacy?

The voice-assisted technology will help patients-especially the elderly, blind, and non-Internet-connected-to get professional help in seconds.

Hancock described the partnership as a means to ease pressure on the NHS, and for "reducing the pressure on our hardworking Global Positioning System and pharmacists".

Amazon's digital assistant Alexa will provide reliable health information from the National Health Service (NHS) website to the local users, the organisation has announced.

Using a voice assistant is obviously more efficient than typing one's symptoms into a search engine.

The move is meant to relieve pressure on NHS staff amid an overhaul of the service to become more digital.

"Part of our mission at NHSX is to give citizens the tools to access services and information directly, and partnerships such as this are an important part of achieving this", he added.

Officials hope this feature-part of the NHS Long Term Plan-will help reduce pressure on the health service and doctors by providing information for common illnesses.


"The public need to be able to get reliable information about their health easily and in ways they actually use", Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said in a press statement.

But privacy campaigners expressed alarm over the possibility of Amazon storing medical data and then using it to sell targeted ads.

The Amazon angle: Alexa can already give health tips, but dishing vetted medical info gives it extra cred and (possibly) a larger user base.

Responding to a tweet that called the plans "outrageous" because of the shortage of GPs, Mr Hancock said: 'What about we use technology as well as hiring more GPs? Boston Children's Hospital piloted several voice applications, including to improve the efficiency of ICU care and to streamline the preoperative organ transplant process.

Amazon has provided assurances that it won't target users for advertisement, or do any of those unscrupulous things that people are anxious about, but in an age where we tend not to trust corporate promises but instead regulate, this is likely to be big news for a while. Given that consumers are looking up their health symptoms through online searches, organizations like Mayo and now the NHS are putting their clinical expertise behind first-aid instructions and symptom checkers.

Speaking at the Future of Healthcare Investor Forum, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the collaboration pairs the NHS's expert medical advice with Amazon's market-leading Alexa device.

Like this: