Watson is going to hospital, but it's not ill

IBM's Watson supercomputer has just gotten a new job. The device will be used at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to improve patient experience in the United Kingdom.

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, together with the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Hartree Centre, and in partnership with IBM, have announced the deal.

The idea is to have Watson collect voluntary and anonymous data from patients ranging from parking, to what they like to eat and drink, and which movies they like to watch. Then, they’ll also get to ask questions about clinical procedures, anaesthetics, and surgery.

After all the data is combined, Watson will use it to anticipate and respond to questions from patients and families “before they come into hospital”.

Mr Iain Hennessey, a paediatric surgeon and Director of Innovation at Alder Hey said: “This is an unprecedented opportunity for Alder Hey to pilot this ground-breaking 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.”

Watson’s feedback will essentially allow the hospital to “think, sense and feel what is happening within it”. The project is backed by a £115.5 million commitment from Government announced in 2015.

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

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