The NHS will collaborate with Amazon to provide health advice and information through Alexa, the UK Government has confirmed.
From this week, people will be able able to use voice-assisted technology to access expert NHS advice, and the Government believes the tech has the potential to reduce pressure on the NHS and GPs by providing information for common illnesses.
Alexa services could help patients, especially the elderly, blind and those who cannot access the internet through traditional means.
Amazon’s algorithm will use information from the NHS website to provide answers to some common health queries, such as:
- “How do I treat a migraine?”
- “What are the symptoms of flu?”
- “What are the symptoms of chickenpox?”
Commenting on the partnership, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS wants to adopt more technologies that can help streamline NHS services and benefit patients in the UK.
“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,” he said.
“Through the NHS Long Term Plan, we want to embrace the advances in technology to build a health and care system that is fit for the future.”
The use of voice search services, such as Alexa, has been increasing rapidly. By 2020, around half of all searches are predicted to be made through voice-assisted technology.
To accommodate for a rapidly evolving tech environment, the Government has established the NHSX unit, which aims to examine the use of technology in health services. Voice-assisted health advice is not the only service this department has considered; electronic prescription services and artificial intelligence could also be on the horizon for NHS services.
Matt Gould, chief executive of NHSX, commented: “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, big and small, we can ensure that millions of users looking for health information every day can get simple, validated advice at the touch of a button or voice command.”