This BBC news article says “people will be able to get expert health advice using Amazon Alexa devices”.
Apparently, Alexa will be allowed to search official NHS websites. The aim is to “take pressure off the NHS by keeping people with minor illnesses out of GP surgeries and A&E.” But have they considered the possible clinical negligence issues?
The obvious difficulty is that many members of the public may use Alexa, or an alternative virtual assistant, to obtain NHS based medical information. However, they will then take that information to their GP in order to get them to write a prescription, so that they don’t have to pay for it. This will mean that the request for GP appointments to discuss what Alexa has told them (and seek a prescription) will increase GP workloads at a time when they are already overburdened. This will delay appointments for those who genuinely need to see a doctor urgently.
But it could be worse. Imagine if you ask a question about a problem and the response from Alexa reassures you, so you don’t go to see your doctor. Suppose you are subsequently diagnosed with cancer, but that it is now too late to be cured, and all because of your use of Alexa, or an alternative virtual assistant.
Normally, in those circumstances, you would ask a lawyer to investigate a claim for clinical negligence against the GP, or the Hospital, where their negligence caused a delay in treatment and an opportunity to be cured.
Now, you would have to consider suing Amazon, who own Alexa, or another company. So, before asking Alexa, or an alternative virtual assistant, about a health problem you can ask it about your legal rights, including privacy and the law in the UK that governs negligence (Tort Law).
Dr Darren Conway PhD is a solicitor in the Medical Negligence Department here at Sternberg Reed, specialising in all aspects of Medical Negligence and Clinical Negligence Claims. If you want to find out more and see how Darren and Sternberg Reed could help you, click HERE
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