Amazon partners with the NHS to help United Kingdom patients access health advice

UK Alexa users can now get answers to medical questions right from the NHS

Currently, Alexa sources answers to such questions from a variety of sites including the Mayo Clinic and WebMD.

The NHS is collaborating with Amazon to help patients, especially the elderly, visually-impaired or those who can not access the Internet through traditional means, to get professional, NHS-verified health information using voice commands, the official release notes.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, said: "We want to empower every patient to take better control of their healthcare and technology like this is a great example of how people can access reliable, world-leading NHS advice from the comfort of their home, reducing the pressure on our hardworking Global Positioning System and pharmacists". Amazon said it began updating its Echo smart speakers to search NHS websites for medical answers at the start of the week.

Civil liberty group Big Brother Watch told the BBC the partnership was "a data protection disaster waiting to happen".

The UK health department said it expected half of all symptom checks and other medical queries to be made through voice-assisted technology by next year.

He said that he did not own an Alexa-enabled device "and I wouldn't want one", adding: 'I don't want one because I think there is an essential humanity that we have got to preserve.

"We haven't as a society and as individuals yet at all come to terms with how we use this technology for the better".


The National Health Service (NHS) and Amazon are offering the new service in a bid to reduce pressure on human doctors and to help people who might otherwise struggle to find health information on the internet.

"Amazon is an organization with a worrying track record when it comes to how they deal with their customers' information", said Privacy International.

In the age of the European General Data Protection Rule, the United Kingdom allowing a US company to hold this personal information seems disingenuous.

The retail giant, however, noted that personal information will be kept confidential, and not shared with third parties, used to sell products or to build a health profile.

Responding to a tweet that called the plans "outrageous" because of the shortage of GPs, Mr Hancock said: 'What about we use technology as well as hiring more GPs? This should make it much easier to get relief.

'It's all about people, it's about having people at the top of NHS trusts who get that technology will give back the gift of time to their clinicians and save lives and improve the lives of their patients'.

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