The UK National Health Service is partnering with Amazon to provide official government health advice via the retail giant’s Alexa personal assistant on smart speakers like the Echo.
The NHS database will be available to Echo users via voice queries, such as, “how do I treat a cold?”
Currently, Amazon’s Alexa assistant answers similar questions by using data from WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, and other sources. However, the NHS deal is the first time Alexa will be able to source government-endorsed health advice.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News his father asks Alexa all sorts of questions, adding: “I want him to get the right answers.”
Hancock referred to people asking their devices about whether to get vaccinations when he said: “I want people to get the best medical advice that says ‘yes’, rather than the sort of spurious stuff that turns up on the Internet and randomly is put up the algorithms.”
The NHS says it hopes that by offering a way to get government-approved health information will help reduce some of the strain on the UK’s hospitals, pharmacies and general practitioners.
For those concerned about privacy and data security, Amazon says the data will remain confidential and won’t be shared with third parties.
The NHS is reportedly negotiating with other companies to offer similar information via other virtual assistants, meaning Apple’s Siri could possibly offer access to NHS info in the future.