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Would you be happy to use Alexa to search the NHS website to answer your health questions?

Amazon’s Alexa is set to answer people’s health queries by searching the official NHS website.

The partnership between the NHS and Amazon is being led by a new digital health body, NHSX.

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.

Privacy campaigners Big Brother Watch said the move was a “data protection disaster waiting to happen”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We want to empower every patient to take better control of their healthcare and technology like this is a great example of how people can access reliable, world-leading NHS advice from the comfort of their home, reducing the pressure on our hardworking GPs and pharmacists.”

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, especially for minor ailments that rarely need a GP appointment, such as coughs and colds that can be safely treated at home.

“However, it is vital that independent research is done to ensure that the advice given is safe, otherwise it could prevent people seeking proper medical help and create even more pressure on our overstretched GP service.

“While some patients might want to use symptom-checkers in this way, not everyone will be happy to do so and many people will not be able to afford the expense of this equipment, thus widening health inequalities and making access to care even harder for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“Patients who are frail often have more complex healthcare needs so it is important that they do not rely on this as their sole source of health advice.”

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Encouraging the public to give their private health details to one of the most aggressive corporate data guzzlers is astonishingly misguided.

“Amazon’s Alexa records what people say, stores recordings in data centres we know nothing about, and exploits our data for profit.

“This scheme will likely result in people being profiled and targeted by data brokers based on their deeply personal health concerns.

“These home surveillance devices are controversial and not widely used. Any public money spent on this awful plan rather than frontline services would be a breathtaking waste.

Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said: “By working closely with Amazon and other tech companies, big and small, 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.”

What are your views?  Do you own an Alexa?  Would you be happy to use this health checking option? 

Would you be happy to use Alexa to search the NHS website to answer your health questions?

522 people have already voted, what's your opinion? Yes No

What are your views?

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David89
5th Aug 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
I refuse to have such thins in my house, and disabled similar features on my phone. Recent information from the AI Institute has had confimation from Amazon, Microsoft and Apple that at least 30 different agencies have direct access to information gathered via the likes of Alexa and Sirius. These 'agencies' are seperate companies, and not all are 'in your best interest'. They have been known to record intimate details and voyeuristic recordings are well documented.. If you use robot hoovers or mowers.. your house layout is recorded and sent to these external companies.. So they know when you are in or out and the layout of your property...
GrahamS31
1st Aug 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
While I still retain my faculties Alexa, or anything similar, is the last piece of electronic gadgetry that would use. It is bad enough nowadays suspecting just how much information various organisations already hold about us, I would not want to 'assist' any sort of robot by revealing even more.
Missymoo
26th Jul 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
How lazy !! Would prefer to talk with a health professional
Bald123
23rd Jul 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
I would worry that it is not secure and could be hacked and who would actually have my data anyway? Amazon? I think not!
Wilf
21st Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
Yes of course I use Google now so whats the difference?
mccollmbe
19th Jul 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
Just a thiught. I voted NO but can see value for a vision disabled person calling out to Alexa a Health Question when they are unable to type a keyboard on a NHS website
Yodama
20th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
BruceH5
18th Jul 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
We do not need another sneeky privatising of the NHS. Fund the NHS correctly.
jeanmark
21st Jul 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
Why believe it is a way of privatising the NHS? Surely it is a way of helping people find health information who may not be able to access the NHS website. It doesn't replace a health care professional or the NHS!
Yodama
18th Jul 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
Don't quite trust Alexa yet, maybe when all glitches have been ironed out...
There have been too many cases of hackers stealing information of late.
I am quite capable of searching University Google myself, it becomes confusing in the end.

I think Doctors roll their eyes at people who say
" I think I haven't got long doc, I saw it on the internet.!

Cut University fees and train more doctors.
sandy06
17th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
get a result then see my doctor
Trish12345
15th Jul 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
I’d rather see a local pharmacist first then a doctor if necessary, even if only a phone chat with my GP
TrudyLS
15th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
It would be a lot safer than looking up a symptom online and getting the vast range of answers available. For example a headache search on google gives explanations from stress to a brain tumour
marly1949
14th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
111 cause enough problems sending most people A&E. We do not need any more.
BrianH72
14th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
It could quick useful information.
AlisonP24
13th Jul 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
Absolutely not, if it is something minor, use common sense, for anything else see a doctor. Alexa can only provide pre programmed info and does not have access to my health history.
TrudyLS
15th Jul 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
some people panic where health is concerned and knowing the information was from the NHS could calm their fears. The idea is not to replace your GP , just provide info
Sidestep15
12th Jul 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
No, I have some medical knowledge and I either know what to do or I will make an appointment with a doctor.
Suelor
12th Jul 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
Whether we like it or not, there is no such thing as 100% secure on line data. Someone will already be working out how to access and use whatever we say to ‘Alexa’.
Alicia
12th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
No - I can do a better job myself !
AlexP7
12th Jul 2019
5
Thanks for voting!
NO.....We'll end up with so many adverts being force fed to us while we wait for results
jason49mac
12th Jul 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
NO!
Remember Microsoft supposedly assisted NHS in the installation and upgrades of Hardware & Software and we know how badly that went.

Also would you really trust "the least customer centric company in the world" with your personal and private data?
Think how much data Amazon already hold with(OUT) your permission.
remember Google & Cambridge Analytics using peoples private data without consent.

Example:
Alexa I have problem with my lower back --- immediately you would receive emails/sms/recommendations on Amazon/Google - for items related to what you believed would be a PRIVATE interaction!
[ This also happens if you search for "problem with lower back" as Google and others track you]
Use Startpage when you want to do a search, all tracking data points to their own servers and nothing towrds your PC etc.
dianellis1
12th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
There is 111 and most doctors now have email capacity.
jeanmark
12th Jul 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
Yes but why use an emergency service when an alternative may give you an answer to your question? We already have a crisis with GP numbers so why stretch them further if an alternative is available. The NHS website (www.nhs.uk) is easily accessed and can help reduce the need for further consultation.
Dezzi
11th Jul 2019
5
Thanks for voting!
While I embrace technology I would not use Alexa until it has been proven to be 100% data secure. Also that the medical information and advice is 100% up to date. So until Alexa is proven data secure and information given totally correct and up to date then my answer is no, I will not use this technical device. I am also sick to death of having to read and listen to how the increase in the elderly are causing a burden to the NHS. Where is the care and attention to any human being gone. Let’s cut to the chase and have the government start looking how the NHS is being run now and start funding the NHS to it can begin to run as it was meant to be, ie caring for any person who is ill, whether it be young, old etc. Too much money has being drained from vital services to enable them to operate fully with dire consequences. What I and a lot of people would like to know is, what is our tax being used for, that is being deducted from monthly pay packets and pension pots (the latter being absolutely appalling having been taxed once already)? Put some back into the NHS.
jeanmark
11th Jul 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
Dezzi, whilst understanding your concerns with regard to security, the information given will be that from the actual NHS Health site thus information will be as up to date as if you were using the website yourself.
Dezzi
12th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
Thank you for your comment to mine. I would need to see written reassurance from NHS and the Government to confirm data etc is totally secure.
jeanmark
12th Jul 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
The NHS Website has more than 43 million visits per month. Having used information from the site on a regular basis, I have not encountered any problems and thus have no more concerns than when using any other official website.

I have no interest in using Alexa but in practice, using such a device is no different than using your computer to browse and it is the individuals responsibly to ensure their device is as secure as possible.
SallyG65
12th Jul 2019
5
Thanks for voting!
So why not just use the NHS website yourself? It is very easy to use, and you can consider all the possible options, read the answers fully and decide whether you need to take it further without having to try to make an extremely irritatingly voiced robot understand what you are trying to say.
jeanmark
12th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
I agree SallyG65, that is what I already do and don't feel I have a need for a device such as Alexa.
TrudyLS
15th Jul 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
some people just prefer to use Alexa because its quicker than manually searching a website. I don't have one myself and don't want one, but, I can appreciate the intent
Billythequiche
10th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
Certainly not! I am old fashioned enough to still be embarrassed having a prostate exam by a lady doctor, sorry, female, woman, non- binary or whatever is the latest correct form. My doctor is wonderful. and she is understanding and patient and I would not wish to upset her in any way. The things we discuss and the questions I ask are frank because I have absolute faith in her integrity and confidentiality. You could not use Alexa in this way. It is a piece of tech owned by and connected to a commercial company.
jeanmark
11th Jul 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
Billythequiche, it would be used to access information to help you to identify if an actual face to face consultation with a doctor was necessary, not as a substitute for more necessary professional opinion.
Billythequiche
12th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
You may be right. As someone who has never never consulted a book on symptoms or googled them I would be reluctant. I would be wary of opening myself up to loads of adverts purporting to help my symptoms and questions as to whether I declare them them when applying for insurance. Yes, I know I am an old f$%t, but it seems that we are becoming willing to part with information on our most intimate concerns, yet cry foul when someone suggests identity cards or info held by the police. Personally I would would be happy for the police to have lots of info and so eliminate me from any enquiries. and I would be even happier if I could carry one card that combined driving licence I.D., bus pass and railcard. I would still be reluctant to put any more than necessary on a commercial database.
jeanmark
12th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
Billythequiche, the NHS website is not a commercial site but set up and funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its purpose is to give information on health related issues not to gather information about an individual. Many people access it and it is recorded as receiving more than 43 million visits a month. Many access it initially to judge if they need to seek professional help about a specific thing, not as a substitute for a medical consultation.

I also feel an ID card would be great, but too many people appear to think they are so interesting that 'big 'brother' would monitoring everything they do!!
Billythequiche
13th Jul 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
I appreciate your comments but I fear I may have confused you. I do use an NHS site via Patient Access through our surgery, I was balking at connecting through Alexa. Alexa and the voice control on our Samsung TV pick up data, you can turn off the data collection on the TV but I am not sure of Alexa. Perhaps it's just me being paranoid, I don't do internet banking. I consider myself broadminded but my upbringing made me sensitive about personal body and health issues, not OCD but enough to be uncomfortable.
Apropos of nothing; I was never able to chat this openly over personal thoughts and issues until making contact with some wonderful people on Silversurfers. There are a multitude of views and opinions but none of the spite and bile of most Social Media.
Wish you well.
jeanmark
13th Jul 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
Thanks for your explanation Billythequiche and I now understand where you are coming from.

I have never felt the need to have an Alexa or any such device to do things for me, I have a husband for that! As to personal health information, I would never use any site that asks for such details but I have used NHS UK for specific information on minor issues, Pharmacists are also a great source for advice. Nationally, we have a crisis with a declining number of GP"s and so anything that can reduce their burden is okay with me.

I am fortunate in having a Medical Practice that is very innovative in finding ways to deliver a quality service that will suit most people. They also have their own dispensary within the practice that delivers to the outlying villages free of charge!

Take care.
Billythequiche
14th Jul 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
Hi jeanmark. We too have a progressive and professional Medical centre. They were among the pioneers of Patient Access; a simple and efficient way of making appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions, checking results and linking with information sites. They also have a service of reminders of appointments by phone/mobile/email.
We often hear of the shortcomings of health services, not often the successes. Recently they published the level of missed appointments and did a poll on charges for them. We would certainly support that.
jeanmark
14th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
It appears we are both luckier than many people on this site. We were also pioneers in Patient Access having been involved in the initial trial and roll out. We also appear to have the same services, making it so much easier to access them.

In our surgery is a jar of marbles that represent the number of missed appointment for the week along with the cost to the service, the jar is now nearly empty as a result.
VeraS
10th Jul 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
That's what doctors get paid for
jeanmark
11th Jul 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
That's the problem Vera, we have a crisis in recruiting GP's!
Elsiesgranny
10th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
No way! I don't own an Alexa and never will. I find them extraordinarily creepy, like having someone spying on you in your living room.
Wipeout
10th Jul 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
I use Alexa daily...in fact she wakes me up every morning 6:45 on the dot and is used throughout the day to enlighten and entertain me and my family on a daily basis. (I also use Siri and Cortana too).

As a design engineer I have always embraced any new technology and believe that if this is rolled out properly with all the safe guards in place it will benefit everyone.

I am well into my sixties and can't wait for a hoverboard (without wheels of course)
StephenJ67
10th Jul 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
Saves employing more doctors.save 4 docs and you can afford another executive to. Go with all the other assistant executives chief executives managerial directors .its disgusting .
HappyHippie
10th Jul 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
my son has one of these and more often than not it gets the answer wrong, so I wouldn't trust it
Wipeout
10th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
The questions that are answered wrong is usually due to the question not being asked properly in the first place. That being said the technology is only as good as the best person feeding it knowledge in the first place.
Burnleyboy
10th Jul 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
If you to want to empower all citizens Mr Hancock then don't get embroiled in a technology war. Just as many people if not more use Google and Apple products
Ritaroo
10th Jul 2019
5
Thanks for voting!
I don’t see why not, anything to save the hard working professionals time for the really ill patients but with good advice given and careful monitoring.
Margaret Hart
10th Jul 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
After The mess the NHS made when somebody hacked into their account I would not trust anyone or thing to look up what I require.

If I need any information I would rather pay to get the relevant parts from my Doctor. I have a typed copy of my notes which I paid £50:to have done a couple of years ago but there is a lot missing in the translation from notes and typed copy.
Nannypink
10th Jul 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
We do not own a device such as Alexa. I do agree that we as responsible users of the NHS should embrace all options provided by our local practices and if this means a telephone call or video call then that is fine and if this possibly leads to a face to face appointment then so be it.
We are where we are with the state of the NHS due to abuse of the service over many years be it at A&E or in GP practices

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