Amazon Alexa to give out official NHS advice

Amazon Alexa won’t snoop on NHS patients			
				 
   by Aidan Radnedge 
  Published

Amazon Alexa won’t snoop on NHS patients by Aidan Radnedge Published

The Health Secretary hopes it will free up doctor's time, but there are some concerned about privacy and data protection. Although a non-emergency medical helpline is active (accessed by dialling 111) plus an on-line system, health officials are keen to explore other ways by which the United Kingdom population can access medical services.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says the technology will allow patients, including older people and people with visual impairment, to receive NHS-verified health information by way of simple voice commands.

Voice search has been increasing rapidly and by 2020 half of all searches are expected to be made via voice-assisted technology.

"Amazon's Alexa records what people say, stores recordings in datacentres we know nothing about, and exploits our data for profit".

Now, Amazon Alexa has teamed up with the NHS and, according to a BBC report, all health-related voice searches on the platform will only contain official health guidelines, starting from this week.

She said: "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".

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

"This information comes from the NHS choices website so is just an alternative way to get information that is already available online via Alexa", said Gemma Cook, a spokesperson for Amazon. From disappointment in addressing other issues in the NHS, such as underfunding and promotion of the 111 service, to the mocking of how accurate Alexa really is. Phil Booth, coordinator of medConfidential, told Techworld that the deal could also involve transferring data to the USA, where there is no overarching data protection regulation equivalent to GDPR and where foreigners don't receive the same protections as U.S. citizens.

However, some commentators have expressed concerns around the way Amazon will handle potentially sensitive data from patients.

The new partnership between Amazon and the NHS has been spearheaded by NHSX, which is an NHS body tasked with bringing digital technology to NHS patients.

The government claims the move will ease pressure on the NHS and be of particular benefit to vulnerable patients, such as elderly people and those who are visually impaired.

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