Comment: Not on your Alexa… why Amazon’s partnership with the NHS is “shiny quick fix”
Recently, the Department of Health announced a new partnership between Amazon and the NHS, enabling the voice-assisted technology to provide NHS-verified health information to users in need of medical advice. Championed by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock, the move is part of the NHS Long Term Plan to make NHS services more readily available digitally in the hope of reducing pressure on the NHS. Discussing the announcement, Mike Glynn, Director of MG Retail Consulting, reflects what the partnership means for patients.
By Mike Glynn
First it was drones and now it’s Alexa. Why has Amazon got such a foothold in the UK?
I, like ten million other households in the UK, have an Alexa but I would not consider asking it for anything other than Radio 2. If I ask for a song or an artist then the answer that comes back more often than not is “sorry I don’t know” or plays something random. Imagine the scenario: “Alexa I’m finding it hard to breathe answer.” The answer of “sorry, I don’t know” just wouldn’t do.
The NHS may be, as some describe, broken, but it’s a seventy-year-old engine that wasn’t designed for today’s society. With a growing population of older people to look after, there are more things to fix and that puts greater pressure on the system. Also, simply put, we can fix more today than seventy years ago, so we do.
However, if we just focus on the elderly who will take up more GP hours as a segment, do we really expect them to talk to a machine for medical help? Not to mention the practicality of internet access and the ability to use the technology.
When we refer to patient care, it’s usually in relation to human interaction so a scheme such as the one announced will serve to erode this even further. Matt Hancock says it will help patients access “world-class advice from the NHS in the comfort of their own homes.” What is not said is that it will also isolate you further by relying on the device for support.
The suggestion is that it will be convenient and save money but if the diagnosis is incorrect and the remedy given results in death then where does the accountability lie? Alexa does struggle with some accents and then add to that a stutter or stammer in speech, the likelihood of a misunderstanding increases.
This is a shiny quick fix to address the situation within the NHS that seems to bypass the millions of people within the health service. There is crucially the consideration of confidentiality when there are reports of Alexa recordings being listened to by Amazon employees.
Let’s not forget the company and the man behind Amazon. The company has generated revenues in the UK in excess of £7bn yet have only paid taxes of £62m. Let’s not kid ourselves, they see this as an opportunity to sell another ten million Alexas paid for by the NHS. There is also the access to the prescription network and supply chain where the patient will request for their medication to be delivered by drone or Prime.
Are we really that naive as a nation that we hand over access to the NHS, our most cherished possession, to the richest man in the world who doesn’t appear to have a social conscience?
Technology does have a part to play in the delivery of health service solutions and support but for the time being, my GP will not be replaced by Alexa – not until she gets my music right!
She’s always listening…https://thiis.co.uk/opinion-not-on-your-alexa-why-amazons-partnership-with-the-nhs-is-shiny-quick-fix/https://i1.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Amazon-NHS.jpg?fit=1000%2C685&ssl=1https://i1.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Amazon-NHS.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1PeopleThoughts and opinionsAlexa,Amazon,Matt Hancock,Mike Glynn,National Health Service,NHS,NHS Long Term PlanRecently, the Department of Health announced a new partnership between Amazon and the NHS, enabling the voice-assisted technology to provide NHS-verified health information to users in need of medical advice. Championed by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock, the move is part of the NHS...Calvin BarnettCalvin Barnettcalvin@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine