Amazon’s Alexa can already set your oven timer, play music, help you book flights, wake you up with an alarm, tell you the weather, and call you an Uber, and now she can dispense medical advice
Amazon’s Alexa can already set your oven timer, play music, help you book flights, wake you up with an alarm, tell you the weather, and call you an Uber, and now she can dispense medical advice.
The Verge reports that WebMD just launched its own “skill” for Alexa, which, once installed, allows her to answer basic medical questions about how to treat mild ailments (e.g. a sore throat), provide definitions of disease, and inform you about the side effects of certain drugs.
The Verge tested out the new feature and found that it worked as advertised but cautioned that though WebMD bills itself as the “leading source of health information,” it’s been criticized in the past for its cozy relationship to pharmaceutical companies as well as its penchant for driving readers to “hysteria.”
For its part, WebMD’s vice-president of mobile products, Ben Greenberg, told the Verge that WebMD has a “really, really strong wall between our editorial and promotional products” and that their content is “never influenced by promotional concerns.”
Also, this might go without saying, but it’s worth noting that Alexa obviously isn’t a doctor, and that as stated above, she’s only set up to answer basic queries.
In other words, you probably shouldn’t rely on her for anything that could be serious. The editors at The Verge also found that there were some “gaps” in her knowledge — for example, no matter how they phrased or re-phrased the questions, Alexa couldn’t answer any requests about how to treat headaches. You also have to start each request with "Alexa, ask WebMD..."
But in a pinch (if you really can't make it to your doctor or your laptop to Google your symptoms), Alexa's WebMD skills could come in handy.