Amazon Alexa will use NHS information to provide medical advice

Amazon Echo
The Amazon Echo.

People in the UK will be able to receive expert health advice from Amazon’s AI assistant Alexa under a newly announced partnership with the NHS.

Alexa will use medically verified information from the NHS to answer medical questions and provide guidance to its UK users. The AI assistant previously provided answers to questions based on a variety of random popular responses.

Speaking at the Future of Healthcare Investor Forum, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the collaboration pairs the NHS’s expert medical advice with Amazon’s market-leading Alexa device.

The move is part of a technological revolution in the NHS. 

“So when sick people need medical information, the information they’ll receive will be NHS information: accurate, reliable, safe. And this will particularly benefit people who rely on voice-activated tech because they struggle with other devices – elderly people, blind and visually impaired people,” Mr Hancock said.

“We want to empower every patient to take better control of their healthcare,” he added.

While some are hailing the announcement as a step forward for the NHS, others were quick to crticise the move, such as civil liberty group Big Brother Watch. 

According to the BBC, Big Brother Watch Director Silkie Carlo said: “Any public money spent on this awful plan rather than frontline services would be a breathtaking waste.

“Healthcare is made inaccessible when trust and privacy is stripped away, and that’s what this terrible plan would do.”

“It’s a data protection disaster waiting to happen.”

However, an Amazon spokesperson told The Times that the company does not share information with third parties or build profiles of its customers.

“All data was encrypted and kept confidential. Customers are in control of their voice history and can review or delete recordings,” the spokesperson said.