1. Fear that technology risks taking the humanity out of the NHS
Last year we ran a project to redesign the NHS website. As part of that, we explored people’s perceptions of digital health. It was clear that there is quite a lot of fear from people when we talk about opportunities in health and technology. They do not want supermarket-style self-checkouts where they can look after their own health. It is the staff that are the real heroes of the NHS; people do not want to lose that.
Alexa should absolutely not be thought of like a doctor, nurse or any health practitioner, despite some of the media coverage. We are only offering information from the NHS website, not attempting to give personalised health advice or triage.
We want to get relevant and effective information to people. What are the symptoms of chickenpox? How do you relieve a migraine? What can you do about flu? I do hope it saves NHS resource, helping people know when they can see a pharmacist, for example. But I do not see it as replacing that human connection in any way.
I also keep trying to intercept uses of the word ‘advice’ in this context. That’s not what the NHS website tries to do and it’s not what Alexa is trying to do. We aim for what we call ‘action-oriented content’. This helps you know what actions you could take and, where appropriate, Alexa will pick up on that, too.