Amazon’s Alexa is set to answer people’s health queries by searching the official NHS website.
Until now, people asking Alexa a health question would be given an answer based on a variety of popular responses.
But a new partnership with the NHS means Alexa will now give answers based on information from the health service website, which has been verified by health professionals.
The plan is to help patients, especially the elderly, blind and those who are unable to access the internet in other ways, take more control of their healthcare and help reduce the burden on the NHS.
The Royal College of GPs welcomed the move but warned that independent research must be carried out to ensure the advice given is safe.
The new partnership has been spearheaded by NHSX, which launched earlier this month and aims to make health services available to patients via digital technology.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Through the NHS Long Term Plan, we want to embrace the advances in technology to build a health and care system that is fit for the future and NHSX will drive this revolution to bring the benefits to every patient, clinician and carer.”
Amazon’s algorithm will use information from the NHS website to provide answers to questions such as: “Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?”, “Alexa, what are the symptoms of flu?” and “Alexa, what are the symptoms of chickenpox?”.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the move but urged caution, saying: “This idea is certainly interesting and it has the potential to help some patients work out what kind of care they need before considering whether to seek face-to-face medical help.
“However, it is vital that independent research is done to ensure that the advice given is safe.”