Just when you thought Amazon’s virtual assistant knew enough already, WebMD – the hypochondriac’s favorite website – has teamed up with the retail giant to give Alexa medical diagnosis capabilities.
The integration will allow Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Fire TV users to ask Alexa basic health queries, such as “Alexa, ask WebMD what are the symptoms of a heart attack”, or “Alexa, ask WebMD how to treat a sore throat.”
To make use of the feature, users simply need to add the skill to Alexa via the Alexa app store. Start by tapping on the sidebar menu button in the top-left corner of the screen in the Alexa app. Then tap inside of the search box at the top where it says “Search Skills.” Type in WebMD and search, then choose to install. Once installed, just start every health related command with “Alexa, ask WebMD…”
In addition to providing answers via voice, the new WebMD integration gives users the chance to request additional information sent in text form to their Alexa app. If they opt to do so, a card containing the original answer to their question and a URL where they can find more information on WebMD.com will appear in the app.
“Every month, nearly one-third of the total online US population turns to WebMD’s websites and apps in search of answers to their health-related questions, but now they have another option – and it’s as simple as asking Alexa,” said WebMD Vice President Ben Greenberg.
“There are a number of reasons that voice-enabled interfaces are growing in popularity – they are generally hands-free, people can talk faster than they type, and when done right, they make it easier for consumers to quickly and easily get to the information they need.”
Despite WebMD having its own physician editors verifying information presented to readers, the new Alexa skill should come with a health warning of its own. Users should be careful when self-diagnosing, as it is definitely not be the best way to find out what is wrong with you. The internet has a good way of making you worry unnecessarily, especially when every possible cause of your symptoms always ends in cancer. Nevertheless, it could be a handy tool in learning about a condition you or a friend already has, or to hear about the side effects of a particular drug. Just don’t use it to replace your doctor.