Tommy's has launched a new information voice technology service which can answer questions on all areas of pregnancy.

Sarah Siguine, Head of Pregnancy Information, tells us more about Tommy's Midwife.

At Tommy’s, we’ve been excited to take our first steps into the world of delivering health information using voice technology. 

We recently launched our new pregnancy information voice skill called Tommy’s Midwife, available for free for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices.  

Just say "Alexa, open Tommy’s Midwife" to your Alexa speaker/app or "Hey Google, talk to Tommy’s Midwife" to your Google Home speaker or Google Assistant app to try it out for yourself.

How can voice technology help deliver health information?

When people talk about ‘voice’, they aren’t just talking about in-home speakers, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home. 

There has also been a huge rise in voice-powered voice assistants, such as Google Assistant, which has 500 million monthly users worldwide. 

This is particularly significant for health information as voice assistants are being used to get information quicker than typing.

It is estimated that 14% of UK households now have voice-activated speakers and it is predicted that 50% of searches will be by voice this year. 

As well as the growing usage of voice technology, it’s important to remember that using websites can be harder for people with literacy difficulties, lower computer literacy or accessibility needs, or for those people whose first language isn’t English. Or, in our case at Tommy’s, for people who might have their hands full holding a new baby. 

Voice-activated technology can sometimes offer an easier way of accessing information.  

What is Tommy’s Midwife?

Tommy’s Midwife can answer questions on all areas of pregnancy – from mental health, nutrition, exercise and maternity leave, to complications, symptoms and labour and birth. 

We worked with our team of midwives and our audience to develop over 400 answers to our most frequently asked questions, providing users with quick answers from a credible source.

One of the main reasons we wanted to develop this skill was because of the huge amount of pregnancy information available online. 

When parents-to-be turn to the internet, they can be overwhelmed with conflicting information from a huge number of sources, making it almost impossible to know what advice to follow. 

This can be an additional source of anxiety for pregnant women who already experience high levels of worry during pregnancy.

One of our recent surveys shows over 85% of women felt anxious during their pregnancy. 

Tommy's Midwife can offer parents-to-be reassurance and support from an evidence-based source they can trust.  

Tommy’s Midwife is built on several levels of tags, categories and utterances to ensure that we serve the right answer to our users. 

This is especially important as we allow people to use natural language to ask a question, for example "What do contractions feel like?", "Is it safe to take painkillers?" or "Are mood swings normal in pregnancy?". 

And as it is built in a CMS, much like a website, we can amend, add or remove copy very quickly.  

We hope it can bring people extra support during pregnancy, especially as NHS resources are extremely stretched during the coronavirus pandemic.  

You can watch an animation explaining Tommy's Midwife here.