Government says digital assistant will provide NHS-verified advice to patients who might otherwise struggle to access information online

UK consumers will soon be able to seek health advice using Amazon Alexa, thanks to a new partnership with the UK National Health Service.

The aim is to help patients that may otherwise struggle to find information online – such as the blind and the elderly – seek health advice through simple voice commands instead.

According to the Department for Health and Social Care, by 2020, more than half of all searches are expected to be carried using voice-assisted technology.

"Technology like this is a great example of how people can access reliable, world-leading NHS advice from the comfort of their home," noted Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

By asking, for instance, "Alexa, what are the symptoms of flu?", the digital assistant will then look up the relevant information from the NHS Website and relay it to the patient. It is hoped the technology will reduce the burden on the NHS and local GPs.

The partnership is part of NHSX, which is tasked with driving the digital transformation of the UK’s state-run health and social care services.

"The public need to be able to get reliable information about their health easily and in ways they actually use. 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," said Matthew Gould, CEO of NHSX.