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 “sorry, I don’t know” wouldn’t do.
The NHS may be as some describe, broken, but it’s a seventy-year-old engine that wasn’t designed for use today. With a growing population of older people to look after there are more things to fix, and that puts more significant pressure on the system. Also, put simply, we can fix more today than seventy years ago, so we do.
However, if we focus on the elderly who will take up more GP hours as a segment, do we 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 about human interaction; a scheme such as the one suggested 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 is given results in death, where does the accountability lie? Alexa does struggle with some accents then add to that a stutter or stammer in a speech the likelihood of a misunderstanding increases. Alexa 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 us not forget the company and the man behind Amazon. The company has generated revenues in the UK over £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 that naive as a nation that we hand over access to our most cherished possession the NHS 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…