NHS makes health information available through Alexa

The collaboration between the government and Amazon follows a push from the centre to add voice to services

The NHS announced it is working with Amazon to make health information from its website available through Amazon Alexa smart speakers.

According to the NHS, the aim is to make professional, NHS-verified information available to patients who are elderly, blind or cannot access the internet through traditional means.

By allowing people to access information for common illnesses such as how to treat a migraine or detect the symptoms of chickenpox, the health service expects to reduce pressure on its resources.

The functionality has gone live this week and half of all searches are expected to be voice-actionable by 2020, according to the NHS.

According to NHSX chief executive Matthew Gould, this is part of a plan to work closely with Amazon “and other tech companies, big and small.”

“[Through collaboration with suppliers] we can ensure that the millions of users looking for health information every day can get simple, validated advice at the touch of a button or voice command,” said Gould.

“Part of our mission at NHSX is to give citizens the tools to access services and information directly, and partnerships such as this are an important part of achieving that,” he said.

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The NHS partnership with Amazon follows a push from the Government Digital Service (GDS) around voice as part of a wider plan to future-proof digital service delivery to citizens.

Several thousand items of government information, on questions ranging from childcare to tax, can already be accessed via voice-activated smart speakers and virtual assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

Earlier this year, former GDS director general Kevin Cunnington said the vision for the central digital unit was to “cajole” departments into adding voice to their services in the next few years.

“[We want to work] with some departments on exemplars, setting the standards and be really, encouraging – cajoling, even – departments to say, ‘Well, now we’ve figured out how to do voice activation of service, why wouldn’t you make all your major services voice [actionable] by 2027?’”said Cunnington in a podcast in May.

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