Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust today announced a ground-breaking multi-year collaborative programme with the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Hartree Centre, supported by IBM (NYSE: IBM), to create the United Kingdom’s first ‘cognitive’ hospital by harnessing ‘big data’ and the power of IBM’s Watson technology platform.
This is the first time that Watson technology will be applied to improve patient experience in the United Kingdom. Alder Hey and the Hartree Centre believe that by applying Watson — an innovation in computing technology — it will enhance patient care and potentially generate savings for both the hospital and the NHS as a whole.
Modern cognitive computing systems are able to process huge amounts of data quickly, extracting the most relevant and important parts. These systems are then able to transform this mountain of information into useful and personal insights that can be used to improve services or treatments.
Coupled with developments in technologies like natural language processing that allow you to speak to your computer in a normal voice and the availability of powerful mobile devices like tablets and smartphones we’re now able to make use of this information for the benefit of our patients and the hospital.
The vision is to use technology to provide Alder Hey Children’s Hospital with the attributes of a living organism.
The cognitive hospital isn’t being created for our patients, it is being created by them.
Iain Hennessey, Alder Hey surgeon and Director of Clinical Innovation said: "I believe that if you get the patient experience right, you get everything right. If technology can help us to improve the patient experience then we have a responsibility to at least consider it.
"At Alder Hey we have just built the most incredible hospital. We now want to improve upon the physical surroundings and create a hospital that learns and thinks – essentially a living hospital.
"It may sound like science fiction, but we want the building – and the technology within it – to contribute positively to the care our patients receive. And this is where Watson comes in.
"The Watson system will sit behind the app that we are creating and will help us to learn about the patient and their family, what the child likes or dislikes, and concerns he or she may have.
In Liverpool, one of the most difficult questions I get asked is: “What football team do you support?” Some prior knowledge here could help me to start a conversation positively. But the system can do much more than that."
How the cognitive Alder Hey will help families like Megan's
Megan has to go into hospital as she has a lump, and nobody knows what it is. She’s a bit nervous as she’s never been into hospital before and doesn’t know what to expect.
Before she heads in to hospital Megan and her parents download the Alder Hey app. She spends some time designing her own avatar, choosing the way it looks. She loves safari animals (a giraffe is her favourite), so she creates the best one she can. Once she’s happy she saves everything to the app.
Sitting down with her parents, Megan takes a virtual tour of the hospital looking at the room, talking about the procedure
She’s still nervous, but she knows what to expect. As the day of her operation gets nearer, Megan has more questions to ask. She knows that the app is always there whenever she needs it.
Matthew and Claire - Megan’s parents
Matthew and Claire are trying to stay brave for Megan, but they have lots of questions themselves. Matthew is concerned about how to get to the hospital, where he’s going to park and about how long the procedure will take. Claire is worried about what might happen, and what the lump might be.
When Megan has gone to sleep, they load the app and begin to ask it questions. Notepad in hand, Matthew writes a list with all the information he needs to know for the journey to the hospital.
The night before the operation Claire spends some time with the app asking some last minute questions about the procedure. When she gets in the car to take Megan to the hospital she can talk confidently about what is going to happen, putting Megan at ease.
Once Megan is out of hospital, Claire checks back regularly with the app, just to make sure she’s caring for Megan in the best possible way.
Raj – Alder Hey Clinician
Raj is due to operate on Megan. Before she arrives he’s able to take a look at her profile and sees that Megan’s favourite animal is a giraffe.
He doesn’t have a picture of a giraffe, but when she arrives, he opens his wallet and shows her a picture of his daughter with her cat, which makes her smile.
Looking at the questions Raj talks through the procedure with Megan, explaining what will happen and how long it will take. He uses superhero characters to help Megan feel a little bit braver.
He can also see that Claire, Megan’s mum, has asked lots of questions about the anaesthetic so, while Megan is saying goodbye to her dad he takes her aside and talks to her about the procedure and its safety.
It’s a normal day for Raj, but he’s happy to spend a little bit of time making Megan feel relaxed.