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Plans revealed for the UK's first 'cognitive' hospital

The UKs first ‘cognitive hospital is being created today, the result of a collaboration between Alder Hey Childrens NHS Foundation Trust and the S...

Lucy Dixon
|May 11|magazine8 min read

The UK’s first ‘cognitive’ hospital is being created today, the result of a collaboration between Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Hartree Centre, supported by IBM.

IBM’s Watson technology platform will be applied to improve patient experience and potentially generate savings for both the hospital and the NHS (National Health Service) as a whole.



Watson will be used to analyse any feedback that is voluntarily and securely provided by the patients, with appropriate consent as needed. This means that Alder Hey will identify patient anxieties and provide information and reassurance on-demand. It will also be able to remind young patients and their parents about appointments and about aftercare, providing insightful feedback to clinicians based on the tone and sentiment of these interactions.

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. 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.”

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson added: “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.”

An initial version of the platform is expected to be ready for testing in the hospital around the end of the year. For the next few months, patients and their parents are being asked a range of questions on everything from parking, to what they would like to eat, to their favourite games and films, as well as 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. 


And using this data Watson will then provide cognitive analytics that deliver insights enabling the hospital to — in essence — think, sense and feel what is happening within it. Patients and their families at Alder Hey will be able to access this pre-admission to hospital through a digital application on a tablet or smartphone, such as a mobile app. The app is being developed in parallel to the cognitive hospital, using funds raised by Alder Hey Children’s Charity.



IBM European Director for Watson, Paul Chong, commented: “This is a significant milestone in our collaboration with the STFC Hartree Centre. 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.”