business news in context, analysis with attitude

In the UK, the government-run National Health Service (NHS) is working with Amazon to use its Alexa-powered devices to deliver health-oriented information to users.

It is, according to a story from Engadget, part of the UK government’s plan to make such services more accessible through digital technologies.

The collaboration, according to Engadget, “is designed to help patients -- such as the elderly and blind -- who can't access the internet through traditional means, which could reduce pressure on the NHS and local GPs. Plus, of course, by linking directly to official and reliable NHS information, users are less likely to stumble upon random medical advice -- anyone who's ever Googled their symptoms knows how much of a minefield that can be.”

The BBC writes that “under the partnership, Amazon's algorithm uses information from the NHS website to provide answers to questions such as, ‘How do I treat a migraine?’ and, ‘What are the symptoms of chickenpox?’” The story notes that “privacy campaigners have raised data protection concerns but Amazon say all information will be kept confidential.”

According to the BBC, the NHS is also exploring similar arrangements with other technology companies.
KC's View:
I asked my Alexa how to treat a headache, and got a decent recitation of various options that can be used to treat headaches of various kinds. I can imagine how it could be a lot more specific … and also could offer to put me in touch with with medical experts if the headache won’t go away.

One thing Alexa didn’t do, which sort of surprised me, was offer to immediately order some headache medicine for me. After all, Amazon knows that I’ve ordered Aleve online … it shouldn’t be that hard to suggest that if I’m out, a new order can be immediately placed.

By the way … I’d be willing to bet money that this is exactly what Amazon has in mind. It just has to ease into it so that people don’t get too creeped out.