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How Tech Has Changed The World: Alder Hey Hospital
05/09/2018

In this series we’re exploring examples of how technology is being used to make the world a better place. In this edition, we’re taking look at the work they are doing at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

Alder Hey is one of the biggest and busiest children’s hospitals in Europe, treating everything from common illnesses to specialist conditions. Alongside the state of the art hospital they also host a brand new research, innovation and education centre. Their award-winning innovation programme partners with industry professionals to drive the best of new technology into healthcare. 

The innovation service has a number of product development streams and associated projects, but we’re going to focus particularly on their advances in patient care in recent years.

Starting firstly with the launch of their new app, the Alder Play app uses gaming and augmented reality to distract patients having procedures. Patients can begin using the app before they arrive at the hospital, where they can create their own avatar and use the chatbot ‘Ask Oli’ to find out more about the hospital and their stay. The chatbot was built alongside The Hartree Centre using IBM’s Watson technology enabling the chatbot to answer questions in real time - this is the first time a hospital in the UK has used technology of this kind. This feature is also available to parents for them to ask questions about their child’s stay.

The introduction of Watson technology meant that Alder Hey patients and their parents were asked questions on everything from parking, to what they would like to eat and what they would like their bedroom to look like so that it can preempt responses based on patient answers. This technology plays a big part in Alder Hey’s cognitive hub working alongside the app, and means that it could be used to proactively match suitable patients to clinical studies, monitor admission patterns to help with bed management, 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.

During their visit, the patients avatar will pop up at various hospital locations in the app and they will be given the opportunity to collect rewards following procedures giving them access to new content. Rewards can be achieved for things as simple as having a dressing changed, having a scan, or getting out of bed after an operation. Having this reward system encourages the children progress. The app distracts patients during their procedures and reduces their worries and fears, ultimately improving patients overall experience at the hospital.

The used of the app idea came from a seven year old patient who suggested an app to distract patients like herself during procedures. With funding from various large companies the app became a reality. The development of this app makes a huge difference to a patients stay, something that is likely to be adopted by other hospitals in the near future.

Another example of Alder Hey using new technology to improve patient care is their neonatal virtual visiting programme. The virtual monitoring system allows parents to see their new born babies when they can’t be with them, and tackles the issue of potential parent/child bonding dysfunction. Using a tablet that is directly linked to the hospitals neonatal unit, parents are able to interact and visit their child. It has high definition audio and they are able to speak to clinicians meaning they can have reassurance and can check on their child in the same way they would at home. Funded by the 23 Foundation, this technology makes a massive difference to new parents and those vital first interactions with their new born.

These examples are only a fraction of the use of new technology in Alder Hey, it has also been used to improve medical and recovery processes. For example, Alder Hey have teamed up with Microsoft to use 'HoloLens', a large screen surface hob that will allow doctors to share patient charts, test and medical images and allow surgeons through the HoloLens headset to create 3D holograms which can be viewed and interacted with in real time giving surgeons up-to-date information whilst operating on a patient.

Alder Hey is currently a front runner in the UK for tech innovation in hospitals, of which the advantages are clear. There are some special things happening at Alder Hey and the sooner this technology spreads to hospitals throughout the UK the better, making patients (particularly children) experience all the more pleasant and making some important medical advancements. 

Like this post? Check out our first edition How Tech Has Changed The World: Florida School Shooting.
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