Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Set to Become UK’s First ‘Cognitive’ Hospital

Collaboration With the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council Hartree Centre Taps into IBM Watson to Improve Patient Experience

Liverpool, U.K. - 11 May 2016: Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust today announced a ground-breaking multi-year collaborative program 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 UK National Health Service (NHS) as a whole.

Using Watson to analyze any feedback that is voluntarily and securely provided by the patients, with appropriate consent as needed, it is anticipated that Alder Hey will be able to greatly enhance the patient experience by; identifying patient anxieties and providing information and reassurance on-demand; reminding young patients and their parents about appointments and about aftercare; and providing insightful feedback to clinicians based on the tone and sentiment of these interactions. Using this valuable insight, clinicians at Alder Hey will be able to make a hospitable stay for a child less daunting, by providing a more personalized service for a child while also being able to identify clinical trends more quickly that could affect patient flow and effectively make significant cost savings.

Mr. Iain Hennessey, a pediatric 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 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.”

A New Approach to Enabling Patient-Centered Hospital Care

The first stage of this multi-year project is underway, with an initial version of the platform expected to be ready for testing in the hospital around the end of the year. For the next few months, hundreds of Alder Hey patients and their parents are being asked a range of questions on everything from parking, to what they would like to eat, to their favorite games and films, and what they want their bedroom to look like. They will also be asked what questions they have about clinical procedures, general anesthetic, 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.

Further, 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.

There are many potential applications of the platform. It could be used to drive vital research projects by proactively matching suitable patients to clinical studies, monitoring admission patterns to help with bed planning or to help management of chronic illnesses through educational applications which could alert patients and their doctors when their symptoms reach the point at which they should seek medical help, or even automatically make an appointment for them.

Lee Hannis, Head of Business Development at STFC’s Hartree Centre, said: “Familiarizing patients with the hospital and procedure they are about to undertake will help reduce the anxiety of patients and their parents or caregivers. 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. 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 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 pediatric 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.”

This project with the Hartree Centre, which is part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), and based at Sci-Tech Daresbury in Cheshire, is backed by a £115.5 million commitment from Government announced in 2015 and is a joint collaboration with IBM to help UK industry achieve competitive advantage and to benefit from the latest cognitive computing technologies.

About Alder Hey:

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust provides care for over 275,000 children and young people every year. Alder Hey delivers clinical excellence for all children, for routine illnesses as well as very complex and rare conditions.

One of four standalone children’s hospitals in the UK, it is a national center for neuro and craniofacial surgery, a regional center for burns injuries and a Centre of Excellence for children with cancer, heart, spinal and brain disease. The Trust is one of only four epilepsy surgical centers in the UK and one of only two accredited major trauma centers in the North West. Alder Hey is also a respiratory Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) surge center and is in all options put forward to be a national center for cardiac surgery under the ‘Safe and Sustainable’ review. It became the first UK Centre of Excellence for Childhood Lupus in 2010.

Alder Hey is the first accredited Investing in Children hospital in the UK. It has a dedicated patient experience program which includes the award winning Alder Hey Arts involving music therapy, dance programs, storytelling and animation projects. It is also one of a few hospitals to have a Children and Young Person’s Forum.

Alder Hey opened a new hospital ‘Alder Hey in the Park’ in 2015. Europe’s first hospital in a park, the new facility provides a purpose-built, unique and world class healing environment for children and young people. A dedicated research, education and innovation center ‘Institute in the Park’ has been built right next to a new state-of the art hospital and  will position Alder Hey and Liverpool as an international leader in the development of safer and more effective medicines for children and young people throughout the world.

Alder Hey is supported by The Alder Hey Children’s Charity which aims to raise vital funds for lifesaving equipment, research projects and patient experience initiatives.

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About IBM Watson Health

Watson is the first commercially available cognitive computing capability representing a new era in computing. The system, delivered through the cloud, analyzes high volumes of data, understands complex questions posed in natural language, and proposes evidence-based answers. Watson continuously learns, gaining in value and knowledge over time, from previous interactions. In April 2015, the company launched IBM Watson Health and the Watson Health Cloud platform. The new unit will work with doctors, researchers and insurers to help them innovate by surfacing insights from the massive amount of personal health data being created and shared daily. The Watson Health Cloud can mask patient identities and allow for information to be shared and combined with a dynamic and constantly growing aggregated view of clinical, research and social health data.

For more information on IBM Watson, visit:

For more information on IBM Watson Health, visit:

Check out the IBM Watson press kit at:

Join the conversation at #ibmwatson and #watsonhealth.

Follow Watson on Facebook and see Watson on YouTube and Flickr.

STFC Hartree Centre

Part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, and located at Sci-Tech Daresbury in Cheshire, the Hartree Centre accelerates the application of high performance computing, data science, big data analytics and cognitive techniques into industry.

Backed by over £170M funding from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, and with a strategic collaboration IBM to boost big data research in the UK, the Hartree Centre is helping businesses and research partners to use these tools to solve research challenges, and gain insights, value and competitive advantage for the UK.

In partnerships, the Hartree Centre is also developing the next generation of supercomputing architectures and software, combining existing best practice with innovation to deliver faster, more energy sustainable solutions capable of meeting the challenges of data intensive computing.

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