10 July 2019
Patients will be able to “Ask Alexa” to help diagnose their health problems under a ground-breaking new deal between the NHS and US giant Amazon.
Under the terms of the deal, patients – including the elderly and blind – will be able to receive NHS-verified health information through simple voice commands.
Amazon’s algorithm will use 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?" "Alexa what are the symptoms of chickenpox".
Health officials said the “world-first collaboration” would empower people to take more control of their own care. They added that it had the potential to significantly reduce pressure on hospitals and GPs.
"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," said health secretary Matt Hancock.
Officials said the technology would not allow Amazon to store any health data, so that advertising could be targeted at those using Ask Alexa for information about symptoms. Voice search has been increasing rapidly in recent years and experts predict that by 2020, half of all internet searches will be via voice-assisted technology.