Amazon Alexa teams with NHS to offer basic medical advice

You can ask the voice assistant about the flu, migraines or chicken pox.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
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Next time Amazon Alexa users in England feel like they're getting the flu, they can turn to the voice assistant for some help.

The UK's National Health Service said Wednesday it teamed up with Amazon to provide reliable medical information through Alexa that's drawn from NHS' website. The service will allow folks there to ask basic questions like: "Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?" and "Alexa, what are the symptoms of chicken pox?"

The NHS said the new program should be especially useful to the elderly, the blind and others who can't access the internet easily. Plus, the government agency predicts the service could help relieve pressure on NHS doctors from fielding basic health questions.

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The partnership is just one of Amazon's many recent efforts to grow in health care. The company last year agreed to buy US-based PillPack, an online pharmacy. It was also granted a US patent last year that would allow Alexa to tell if you were a little under the weather and offer a shipment of cough drops. 

Amazon won't be sharing any of the information from this NHS program with third parties, and it isn't selling or recommending products based on this health information. The company is also not building health profiles of customers using this information, and it plans to treat it as highly confidential.

"Customer trust is of the utmost importance, and Amazon take privacy seriously," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday. "Customers are in control of their voice history. They can review and delete voice recordings in the Alexa App or by visiting amazon.co.uk/privacy. Customers also have the option to delete via voice by saying 'delete what I just said' or delete what I said today.'"

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