Children’s hospital uses IBM Watson app to improve healthcare

Watson will answer kids’ questions and analyse data for doctors

A UK children's hospital is using IBM Watson to answer kids' questions about their stay and to analyse patient data in a bid to provide better care.

Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust is developing an app to let children and their families answer a range of questions before their stay in hospital such as their favourite food, games and films, and how they wish their bedroom to look.

They can also ask questions about clinical procedures and surgery, which IBM researchers and scientists from the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Hartree Centre will use to train Watson into providing useful responses to patients before they come to hospital.

Iain Hennessey, a paediatric surgeon and director of innovation at Alder Hey, said: "This is an unprecedented opportunity for Alder Hey to pilot this groundbreaking technology and learn how to transform IT capability and working practices in healthcare, not just in the UK but across the world.

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"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."

The first version of the Watson platform should be live by the end of the year, with funding from a 115.5 million pot the government made available last year. The app will be developed in parallel with money from the hospital's charity.

Alder Hey will spend the next few months collecting patients' questions to make Watson's responses as useful as possible.

Lee Hannis, head of business development at the Hartree Centre, said: "Our aims are to improve the quality of the precious time patients have with clinical staff and extend the care before and after the patient visit."

Analysing patient data

But both IBM and Alder Hey see more potential uses for the technology namely in collecting patient data to improve the hospital's quality of care.

Watson will provide analytics to the hospital to deliver insights on the data it collects, using it to match patients to clinical studies and monitoring admission patterns to help plan the availability of beds.

Another option is to create apps for patients with chronic illnesses, notifying them when symptoms reach a point where they need to seek medical help.

The Hartree Centre's Hannis said: "We are extremely excited about applying these new computing techniques to help improve the experience and quality of care provided at Alder Hey Children's Hospital and look forward to seeing the early interactions between the children and the hospital in coming months."

IBM's European director for Watson, Paul Chong, called the project a "significant milestone".

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He added: "Alder Hey Children's Hospital has set a truly inspiring vision for the future of paediatric care. I'm thrilled to see IBM Watson technology applied to help doctors and their patients in the effort to improve the lives of children and their families."

Picture courtesy of Science and Technology Facilities Council

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