http://www.digitaljournal.com/life/health/health-service-partners-with-alexa-to-provide-medical-support/article/553715

Health service partners with Alexa to provide medical support

Posted Jul 10, 2019 by Tim Sandle
The U.K. National Health Service (NHS) is to partner with Amazon’s Alexa in order to provide health information. This is being piloted as an alternative to medical advice helplines and to reduce the number of medical appointments.
Amazon Echo devices offering users the personal digital assistant Alexa.
Amazon Echo devices offering users the personal digital assistant Alexa.
David Becker, GETTY/AFP/File
While the U.K. NHS is much admired around the world as a free-at-the-point-of-use healthcare system, health officials are always keen to find ways to reduce the strain on the systems, especially relating to medical visits where the process of booking appointments and waiting times for sessions with doctors can be lengthy. The average time to obtain a non-medical emergency appointment with a general medical practitioner is averaging around two weeks.
Although a non-emergency medical helpline is active (accessed by dialling 111) plus an on-line system, health officials are keen to explore other ways by which the U.K. population can access medical services. For this reason, NHS England is to partner with Amazon.
The use of Alexa voice technology not only offers an alternative service, it provides a potentially easier route for elderly, blind, and those who cannot access the Internet through a keyboard, to gain access to health information. This fits in with a new initiative from the U.K. Government called NHSX, which is about the NHS Long Term Plan intended to make more NHS services available digitally.
As PharmaPhorum reports, Alexa can now answer questions such as “Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?” and “Alexa, what are the symptoms of flu?”
Outside of the U.K., Amazon is working with several healthcare providers, including digital health coaching companies, in order to launch six new Alexa healthcare ‘skills’. According to Rachel Jiang, head of Alexa Health & Wellness: “Every day developers are inventing with voice to build helpful and convenient experiences for their customers. These new skills are designed to help customers manage a variety of healthcare needs at home simply using voice – whether it’s booking a medical appointment, accessing hospital post-discharge instructions, checking on the status of a prescription delivery and more.”