Amazon Alexa image

Stuart Barrow imageIn a recent announcement by the Department of Health and Social Care, it was revealed that Amazon is partnering with the NHS to allow people to access essential healthcare information online entirely via voice commands.

It is designed to make the NHS website more accessible to patients, especially the elderly and people with vision impairments, to help them access health information quickly through voice-assisted technology.

However, is this new partnership really a good development?

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Stuart Barrow, Occupational Therapist and Managing Director of Promoting Independence, discusses his views on the latest assistive partnership.

Alexa, call me an ambulance

If you’ve been reading the news this week, you might have read about the NHS teaming up with Amazon, all with the aim of helping patients to easily search for information and advice on health-related matters.

The idea is simple: if it’s easier for people to access health advice, there’ll be less strain on the NHS.

The trouble is that right now, there’s loads of fantastic information available on the NHS website that thousands of people can’t access because they aren’t hugely computer literate.

And this partnership is designed to eliminate that problem – patients will simply be able to ask the Amazon Alexa app questions, which will then be answered with the help of an algorithm that delivers NHS information.

The hope is that this will help people to get information that they are currently going to the doctors to get, thereby reducing the strain on the health service.

I’ve got to be honest, I’m in two minds about it all.

On the one hand, I see how it could reduce strain on surgeries, by getting people to sidestep them and head straight to the pharmacy, and long-term, I could see it allowing people to re-order repeat prescriptions without paperwork or delay.

On the other hand, I wonder about the wisdom of a commercial organisation led by the world’s richest man having access to our NHS – should the two mix?

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