The UK National Health Service is partnering with Amazon Alexa to bring official government health advice to smart speakers like the Amazon Echo.
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In the announcement, the NHS database will be surfaced through Amazon voice queries. Echo users will be able to ask questions like ‘what are the symptoms of flu?’ or ‘what do I do to treat a cold?’.
The Amazon Alexa ecosystem already offered solutions to these kinds of queries using data from WebMD, Mayo Clinic, and others. The NHS deal is the first of its kind because it represents government-endorsed official health advice.
In a statement, the government Health Secretary said he prefers for users to be able to easily access official information rather than “the sort of spurious stuff that turns up on the Internet and randomly is put the algorithms”.
The NHS said it hoped offering more ways to get health information would reduce demand on the country’s strained hospitals, pharmacies, and general practitioners.
Naturally, this raises questions about privacy and data security. Amazon says data will remain confidential and not be shared with third parties.
The NHS is apparently negotiating with other voice assistant companies to reach similar deals. This means that the same kind of queries could come to Apple’s Siri in the future.