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AI to lend a comforting hand at Alder Hey hospital

Big data and cognitive analytics will enable the hospital to think, sense and feel what is going on inside it

Technology aims to make hospital stays less daunting for children
Technology aims to make hospital stays less daunting for children

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust will become the UK’s first ‘cognitive’ hospital following a ground-breaking arrangement with IBM and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Hartree Centre.


The multi-year collaborative programme will see the hospital harness the AI computing power of IBM’s Watson technology platform and analysis of big data to improve patient experience through use of a mobile app. Additionally, it could potentially save the hospital and the NHS money.


Using Watson to analyse any feedback that is voluntarily provided by the patients, Alder Hey will be able to identify patient anxieties and provide information and reassurance on-demand; reminding young patients and their parents about appointments and about aftercare; and providing feedback to clinicians based on the tone and sentiment of these interactions.


This insight could make hospital stays for children less daunting, by providing a more personalised service for each child while also being able to identify clinical trends more quickly that could affect patient flow and contribute to cost savings.


“Helping our patients and their families prepare properly for coming into hospital will really reduce their anxiety and could mean we can get them better and home faster,” said Iain Hennessey, a paediatric surgeon and director of innovation at Alder Hey.


The first stage of this multi-year project is underway, with a pilot version of the platform expected to be ready for testing in the hospital around the end 2016. For the next few months, hundreds of Alder Hey patients and their parents will be asked a range of questions on everything from parking, to what they would like to eat, to their favourite games and films, and what they want their bedroom to look like.


They will also be asked what questions they have about clinical procedures, general anaesthetic, and surgery. A team of experts from the Hartree Cognitive team, made up of the Hartree Centre and IBM, will use this information to ‘train’ Watson to anticipate and respond to questions from patients and families before they come into hospital.


Further, using this data, Watson will then provide cognitive analytics that deliver insights enabling the hospital to “think, sense and feel what is happening within it”. Patients and their families at Alder Hey will then be able to access this pre-admission to hospital through a digital application on a tablet or smartphone.


The project is backed by a £115m commitment from government and aims to help UK industry achieve competitive advantage and benefit from the latest cognitive computing technologies.


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