INTRODUCTION: Being in hospital can be a frightening experience for children. They get scared easily by the unfamiliarity or the need for interventions or tests. Parents can be equally terrified by having an unwell child in hospital which affects a child’s own understanding of their environment. This can have far reaching effects on patient experience and the healing process. Spending time explaining what will happen to children and their families, and answering their questions, can address these issues. Whilst a healthcare professional may not always be available, a digital assistant has the ability to handle questions anytime, anywhere. Furthermore, using cognitive technology, a digital assistant is able to spot trends in conversations and alert clinicians to unmet needs that may not be identified in routine practice.

AIMS: We aim to develop the world’s first cognitive hospital, that can in essence ‘think, sense and feel’ what is happening within it, and then respond intelligently to improve patient experience. Through the use of a digital assistant we want to provide clinicians with insights into patient concerns and anxieties that will enhance the care they provide and improve healing.

PROGRESS: Utilising IBM’s Watson Conversation Service we have developed a digital assistant called Oli that is able to answer basic questions about hospital visits and routine pre and post operative care. Oli is able to provide patients and families with information about their stay and handle simple questions about an anaesthetic or common concerns around an operation. We are developing further knowledge modules such as questions relating to newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes mellitus and head injury recovery. We have built the supporting e-infrastructure and tools that are necessary to built and operate these services. Oli has been integrated into a new mobile app designed for children at our hospital that uses rewards and distraction techniques. We plan to integrate appointment information in the near future followed by other integrations with the electronic patient record that will personalise the experience. As question sets are accumulated we will use big data analytics to gain insights into the types of questions asked within specific settings, their tone / sentiment and other characteristics that can help improve patient care and experience.

IMPACT: We are currently validating the impact on improving patient experience by surveying users. With access to the assistant before, during and after a hospital stay, we aim to have an impact across the whole patient journey. For example pre-operatively we hope to reduce cancellations, increase the level of patient preparedness, reduce anxiety levels and anticipate any patient specific problems. During their stay we hope to identify prolonged waiting times or bottlenecks in patient flow. After discharge we will encourage good after care by providing basic clinical advice and reducing the pressure on staff or community based General Practitioners (GP’s) in handling routine questions. With further analytics we hope to demonstrate these benefits have significant commercial potential.



Author: Darren Gates

Coauthor(s): William Calvert (ST4 Paediatric Surgical Registrar), Carol Platt (Innovation Associate), David Meredith (Technical Architect, Future Technologies Group, Hartree Centre), Mark Mawson (Project Manager, Future Technologies Group, Hartree Centre)

Status: Work In Progress

Funding Acknowledgment: The Alder Hey Cognitive Hospital Project is a collaboration between the Hartree Centre, IBM and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.