Alexa, give me a diagnosis

The NHS are teaming up with Amazon to allow patients who cannot easily search for health advice online the ability to access this information through the voice assistant Alexa.

This has already stirred up comments, with some commenting it will take patients away from having doctors appointments, even in the most serious circumstances, while others have criticised the tie-up with Amazon and see it as a breach of privacy.

At a time where people are living longer and NHS services are strained across the country, surely anything that will help people get the best treatment can only be a good thing?

It’s worth remembering that this isn’t a replacement of your healthcare professional, but merely a vocal search of the NHS website, with Alexa feeding back information to you, that could ultimately help begin your treatment for small ailments, without having to clog up A&E or your local GP surgery.

Whilst I understand the issues surrounding privacy and Amazon, your personal details aren’t handed out. Not your hospital number, NHS number or DOB. The only details Amazon will most likely hold of you are the ones associated with your Amazon account (Name, payment information, etc). If you’re concerned about what Amazon might store in terms of what you say to Alexa regarding your symptoms, you might consider simply visiting the NHS website online, but even the search element will be stored in your browsers history.

I think this is a step in the right direction for the NHS. Digital is the way forward for a large proportion of treatments and advice. The young love technology and are tech savvy, and as the elderly live longer, they too are becoming tech savvy, thanks to the ease of using some technology these days, but also with the help of family and friends.

What we don’t want though, is for this to take away the important role NHS teams play daily in people’s lives, but in fact, to simply aid patients to find the right treatment and the right time.