by Dolline Mukui

Amazon’s Alexa and the NHS will partner up to take on health related questions in a bid to ease the pressure off the NHS.

The technology assisted device will search NHS websites to answer medical questions, which is verified by professionals. This differs from the process before, where Alexa answered questions based on a variation of popular responses.

Its purpose is to help those with vision impairment, elderly and others who are unable to access internet to gain control of their healthcare. The Department of Health says is would empower patients by providing reliable information.

Amazon’s algorithm uses information from the NHS website to provide answers to questions such as: “Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?”; ‘Alexa, what are the symptoms of flu?’

Matt Hanock, health secretary said “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.”

Using the voice assist technology has been on the rise and by 2020 it is expected that half of all searches are expected to be made by the device.

The number of people needing to see the GP are often told to go to A&E because they can’t get any appointments but are in need to see a practitioner. 

However, the NHS does not have enough money to keep doing what it does e.g. treating the growing number of sick and often elderly people but the government plan reduce the demand of the NHS by doing more with less.

This is by stopping people getting sick the in the first instance, hoping to use technology that is already in people’s homes. 

Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, hopes that combining technology with the healthcare system will cut the numbers of people heading to A&E.

In the grand scheme of things, there are few professionals that are sceptical of the data partnership.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the move but urged caution, saying: “This idea is certainly interesting and 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, such as coughs and colds that can be safely treated at home.

The Alexa device, on a nightstand, is a popular device regardless of its capabilities to ‘diagnose’.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Encouraging the public to give their private health details to one of the most aggressive corporate data guzzlers is astonishingly misguided.

“Amazon’s Alexa records what people say, stores recordings in data centres we know nothing about, and exploits our data for profit.

“This scheme will likely result in people being profiled and targeted by data brokers based on their deeply personal health concerns.

However, Amazon has said all data would be kept confidential and multiple layers of authentication would protect the data from UK customers and that all information would be encrypted.

The partnership is directed by NHSX which is new division bringing digital transformation to the health and social care industry.

Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX announced five main targets entailing reducing burden on staff, increasing NHS productivity, supporting improvements to patient safety, making sure clinical information is safely accessed across the system and ensuring people have access to information and services directly.

Dolline is a traveller, journalist and blogger who has palate to try new things. She is a very spontaneous person; you might find her skydiving over the Kenyan coast to kayaking in the Lake District. She can be an over thinker who thinks of every outcome but if she doesn’t she welcomes the change that wasn’t planned. However, she is a very simple person who is up for a good laugh or a book and enjoys living the moment. Dolline also writes for her small personal blog called ‘Swatches of Beauty’ and is currently a production journalist trainee at ITV Border.