Amazon Alexa to start offering NHS health advice

Experts predict that by 2020 half of all internet searches will be via voice-assisted technology  - AFP

Experts predict that by 2020 half of all internet searches will be via voice-assisted technology  - AFP

A lack of detail about how patient data will be used and stored makes the deal appear like a "crazy PR stunt", according to Phil Booth, a co-ordinator at medConfidential.

Alexa replied: "Hmm, I don't know that one".

"When a customer deletes a voice recording, we delete the transcripts associated with the customer's account of both of the customer's request and Alexa's response", the Amazon letter said. It can not be stored indefinitely.

SEE ALSO: Need some medical advice? "Healthcare is made inaccessible when trust and privacy is stripped away, and that's what this bad plan would do". Phil Booth, coordinator of medConfidential, told Techworld that the deal could also involve transferring data to the United States, where there is no overarching data protection regulation equivalent to GDPR and where foreigners don't receive the same protections as USA citizens.

Although the Royal College of Global Positioning System has welcomed the move, it warned that independent research is required to ensure the advice given out is safe.

Known as Amazon Alexa, the technology will help patients, especially the elderly and people with vision impairments, to get professional, NHS-verified health information quickly through simple voice commands.

But she said it was vital that independent research was done to make sure the advice being given was safe or it could "prevent people seeking proper medical help and create even more pressure".

NHSX will look at ways of making more NHS services available to all patients through digital technology.

Robbie Gordon, a spokesperson for the NHS, told CNN Business the agreement is not exclusive with Amazon, and they hope that partnering with services like Amazon will alleviate stress on the NHS and doctors.

There is no financial element to the collaboration, Amazon said.

The government's agreed that Amazon's Alexa device may trawl oficial NHS advice pages to answer health questions from owners, which has to be a step up from the horror that is looking up your symptoms on search engines.

Alexa will be able to answer user questions related to health such as how to treat a migraine or other ailments by sourcing information from the NHS website's databases.

Leaked documents published previous year suggested the company was building a "health and wellness" team within its Alexa voice assistant division in the U.S., but Amazon declined to comment.