eGPlearning Podblast

Digital Assistants in Healthcare - Alexa, Google Home and Siri?

June 9, 2019


Digital Assistants in Healthcare - Alexa, Google Home, and Siri


This is our first “Super Test” episode! We put Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant through their paces as we explore the current state of Digital Assistants as Health Technology and discuss the future possibilities for the technology.


Watch this episode on YouTube for the best experience:


1.50 What we have been  


2.05 Nikki Kanani episode


2.50 Standing desks for GPs


3.45 HTN and Digital week - How to work quicker in primary care


4.40 RCGP Bright Ideas


5.40 Digital GP fellowships - contact us


6.30 How we are testing them


8.00 We tested performance in the following areas:


  • Emergency Assistance
  • Finding Services
  • Accessing and Booking Services
  • Health Information
  • Health Advice/Assessment


How we scored for each question:


  • Winner = 3 points
  • Runner up = 2 points
  • Bottom of the class but gave a sensible answer = 1 point
  • Fail = 0 points
  • Safety concern = -3 points


If you are interested:


Alexa Echo: Bought at Amazon or major retailers RRP £89.99


Alexa Dot: Bought at Amazon or major retailers RRP £39.99


Google Home: Bought at Google or retailers RRP £49-89


Apple Siri: Available on all Apple products like the Apple Watch or iPad.


Emergency Assistance


  Amazon Alexa Apple Siri Google Home
08.30 Call me an Ambulance 2 3 0
11.15 Tell me how to do CPR 0 2 3
14.45 How to treat a nose bleed 2 1 3
17.50 What do I do if someone swallows bleach? 0 3 -3!!


12.15 Explaining what Alexa Skills are.


20.45 Note - Apple switched the search engine behind Siri back to Google from Microsoft Bing on 25/9/17


Finding Services


  Amaxon Alexa Apple Siri Google Home
22.10 Where is my nearest A&E? Can you send me directions? 0 0 3
26.15 I think I have a sexually transmitted infection? 0 1 3


Accessing and Booking Services


  Amazon Alexa Apple Siri Google Home
30.00 Book me an appointment at my GP? 0 0 0


Health Information


  Amazon Alexa Apple Siri Google Home
37.20 Tell me about simvastatin? 2 0 0
… Common side effects? 0 0 3


Health Advice/Assessment


  Amazon Alexa Apple Siri Google Home
42.00 I have a headache… what should I do? 1 0 1
48.25 Open Headspace - no winner 3 3 3


43.15 Doctor Alex Alexa Skill -


47.20 What could happen if others try to develop skills like Babylon Health or Ada Health?


Special mention to some other Amazon Alexa skills


  • Headspace
  • Bodycoach
  • First aid by British Red Cross - Alexa, ask first aid how to look after someone with a seizure


50.40 Summary impressions


52.30 Considerations


Security of data and use.


55.10 Regulation


55.30 Check out ORCHA


Final Score Cards:


Winner: Google Assistant - 16 points


Impressive and surprised us in places.


The Good


  • Generally the best at recognising our questions.
  • Good to see sources of information are mostly provided and tended to be recognised and reputable.
  • The ability to ask a follow on questions which are processed within the context of the previous question was very useful and made interactions feel more conversational. We can ask about a drug and then follow up with a question about side effects.
  • Good integration with phone. Could send directions to A&E department to phone.
  • Supports voice interface for third-party apps such as Headspace.


The Bad


  • Sometimes tried to do more than it could do safely
  • Concerns about privacy and data security. Will Google sell us headache remedies - is health data identified as a more sensitive category? Would we want adverts for sexually transmitted infection clinics nearby?




Runner up: Siri - 13 Points


After adding up the points after the show, Siri actual came second...


The Good


  • Best to summon help in an emergency - direct link with phone
  • Primarily serving up web search results - but this is often useful.
  • Available in many form factors; HomePod, iPhone, Apple Watch, AirPod earphones.
  • Didn’t try to do more than it could do safely
  • Apple sacrificing performance for greater privacy


The Bad


  • Behind in terms of voice and question recognition
  • Apple sacrificing performance for greater privacy




“Second runner up”: Amazon Alexa - 4 points


The Good


  • Was able to find useful information and often provided the source
  • Lots of potential for Alexa Skills and their simple development environment.


The Bad


  • Privacy concerns
  • Ease of production of Alexa skills may lead to large numbers of poor quality or unsafe skills Safety
  • Single trigger word leads to unintentional, and annoying, accidental activations.


Final thoughts.


57.15 What we think of Alexa and Google. What does Siri do well and why?


59.00 Activation issues - is one word better than two?




Potential for Digital Assistants and health in the future


  • Digital assistants acting as translators (where human translator not available)?
  • Digital assistants providing triage of symptoms and providing signposting to self-care and alternative sources of care.
  • Linking-in to pharmacy sales could enable a business model for triage (1.06.00)
  • Helping patients find and navigate health services along their patient journey
  • Monitoring of long term health conditions and vulnerable individuals such as dementia sufferers (1.07.15)


1.08.10 - An opportunity to join us for future episodes???


Thanks for listening!