Data Driven Futures

NHS partners Amazon Alexa for patient information

Written by Hannah McGrath

The NHS has launched a collaboration with Amazon Alexa aimed at providing patients with reliable health information with the help of voice-assisted technology.

The initiative, which will link the algorithm on the Amazon Alexa device to information on the NHS website to answer questions about health complaints such as headache treatments, flu symptoms and the signs of chickenpox.

The technology is intended to help patients, especially the elderly, blind and those who cannot access the internet through traditional means, to get professional, NHS-verified health information through simple voice commands.

Responding to concerns raised over data privacy concerns, Matt Hancock, health secretary said the service would be backed by strong privacy rules to protect patient confidentiality.

The government said the technology has the potential to reduce the pressure on the NHS and GPs by providing information for common illnesses. The NHS is exploring the use of new technology across a range of services through its NHSX digital transformation programme.

The move comes at a time when voice assistant devices have driven voice search sharply. By 2020, half of all searches are expected to be made through voice-assisted technology.

Hancock said: “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.

“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 and NHSX will drive this revolution to bring the benefits to every patient, clinician and carer.”

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. By working closely with Amazon and other tech companies, big and small, we can ensure that the millions of users looking for health information every day can get simple, validated advice at the touch of a button or voice command.”