IBM Watson to help create UK’s first ‘cognitive hospital’

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool will be the first to take advantage of IBM’s Artificial Intelligence platform Watson, creating an app for its patients.

Through a three-way collaboration between Alder Hey NHS Trust, IBM and the government’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the app will have multiple functions, including reminders of appointments, the ability for patients to look into details of their treatment, and allowing them to provide consensual feedback.

The hospital hopes the app will result in a ‘cognitive’ hospital in that it will provide valuable insights in regards to patient anxieties and issues with care, allowing it to improve its services. The machine learning aspect of IBM Watson will allow the app to predict and respond to patient anxieties based on the nature of the questions asked.

Mr Iain Hennessey, paediatric surgeon and Director of Innovation at Alder Hey described the development as “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.”

He added: “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 project is part of a wider ‘big data’ research collaboration between IBM and STFC Hartree worth £315 million, £200 million of which has been contributed by IBM and the remainder by the government.

The app will be available on smartphone and computer platforms, and if proven effective, could be rolled out across the entire NHS.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “The healthcare sector is undergoing tremendous development right now, driven by data, digital technologies and cognitive computing. This unique collaboration showcases the UK’s role at the forefront of science, innovation and healthcare, and will make a real difference to the care and experience of patients and clinicians in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.”

The extent to which Watson can be applied in healthcare is seemingly endless, the company having recently announced a collaboration with Valeant to produce a cataract surgery app. In some hospitals, the Watson system is already used to help doctors decide on diagnostic and treatment decisions.

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