"Entrusting Amazon's Alexa to dispense health advice to patients simply opens the door to the holy grail-our NHS data". As the BBC explains, the NHS wants to use technology to reduce demand on its services and free up its employees' time.
Amazon has teamed up with the UK's National Health Service (NHS) to help elderly people, blind people and other patients who can not easily search for health advice online to access health information through its AI-powered voice assistant Alexa.
And the NHS likely sees Alexa's popularity and low price point as proof the platform is the best channel to reach a wide audience.We've discussed how bringing digital health applications to consumers can be an extremely costly process for healthcare organizations: The average mobile health app costs more than $400,000 over the development lifecycle.
Users can ask questions such as "Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?", "Alexa, what are the symptoms of flu?", or "Alexa, what are the symptoms of chickenpox".
Beyond that, though, the UK's NHS move is very interesting based on the current dynamics around the world when it comes to data privacy and security.
The effort is part of a 1 billion pound initiative to transform digital innovation in the NHS. It said that Alexa would also be beneficial to individuals with disabilities, like sight impairments, who find it hard to access the computer or smartphone to seek health advice. A lawsuit filed last month in USA federal court alleged that Amazon is violating laws in eight states by recording children without consent through Alexa devices.
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The use of voice-assisted technology is growing rapidly in healthcare.
"Encouraging the public to give their private health details to one of the most aggressive corporate data guzzlers is astonishingly misguided", Britain's Big Brother Watch civil liberties group director Silkie Carlo said. That effort, called NHSX, formally launched in February as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to modernize health services.
Amazon said in a statement that 'customer trust is of the utmost importance, and Amazon takes privacy seriously'.
However, when the Daily Mail tested the device, it found that Alexa failed to provide answers to a number of questions.
"However, it is vital that independent research is done to ensure that the advice given is safe", Royal College of Global Positioning System chairwoman Helen Stokes-Lampard said.
'However, it is vital that independent research is done to ensure that the advice given is safe, otherwise it could prevent people seeking proper medical help and create even more pressure on our overstretched GP service'.