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Flu questions? Ask Australia's first winter health voice app

Blog post | 25 Jul 2018

You know those moments when you’re busy in the kitchen but think of a pressing question about colds or flu? Now you can get an answer instantly, with no need to wait until your hands are free.

The free healthdirect Flu Advice voice app is now available on smart devices, Google Home and Amazon Echo. You can ask your device a specific question on colds and flu — including the current flu risk in your state or territory. 

And unfortunately, now is the perfect time to have a conversation about the flu.

The risk of flu is typically highest in late July and continues through August. In 2015 — one of Australia's worst flu seasons in recent years — almost 40,000 cases of flu were reported in August. That contrasts with the 5,000 reported in June 2015.

Why a voice app?  

Most people have dabbled with Apple’s voice-activated assistant, Siri. She’s been around for years but there is more to come. According to Google insiders, it’s expected that in the next 2 to 4 years, more than half of all mobile searches will be conducted using voice.

Healthdirect Australia was the first Australian organisation to launch a voice-activated health app when it unveiled the Summer Health voice app in January this year.   

“There are benefits to providing health information on voice-activated home devices,” says Andrew Bryant, General Manager of Consumer Health Services at Healthdirect Australia. “Being hands-free means parents or carers are able to ask questions and receive advice while attending to a child or another person.”

“For people with disabilities, it can be a friendlier interface than a screen reader, and can increase accessibility for those who have mobility, vision and/or cognitive impairment.”

How it works

You can access Flu Advice using Google Assistant on your Google Home; Amazon Alexa on your Amazon Echo; or via a chatbot on Facebook Messenger.

To access healthdirect Flu Advice, say clearly the following phrases:

  • Google devices — “Hey Google, talk to healthdirect Flu Advice”
  • Amazon devices — “Alexa, launch healthdirect Flu Advice”
  • For the Facebook Messenger chatbot, visit the healthdirect Flu Advice Facebook page.

You can then ask questions such as, 'Should I get a flu shot?' 'How can I treat the flu?' and 'What's the difference between a cold and the flu?' The app will then reply (in a voice that was described by one tester as “a friendly aunt”), with bite-sized information that will help you and your family stay healthy this winter.      

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