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New app to help doctors form closer relationships with patients

Wednesday 18th May 2016
A new app is being developed at Alder Hey hospital to help doctors build closer relationships with their patients. Image: kieferplx via iStock
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A new artificial intelligence-based mobile app has been launched at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool to help doctors connect with their patients more closely.

The hospital has been working with tech firm IBM's Watson, as well as the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council's Hartree Centre to develop the app.

It will act as a hub for a wide range of information that is set to be collected over the coming months, as patients and their loved ones are set to be questioned about everything from their favourite meals and games to what their ideal bedroom would look like.

Doctors and other medical staff will then be able to draw on the data stored within the app to help them to build closer relationships with their patients, making their hospital stays as comfortable as possible.

Alder Hey specialises in treating children, meaning many of its patients are unsure how to deal with being in hospital. Therefore, with the app allowing for better relationships to be formed between doctors and patients, children's minds, as well as those of their loved ones, should be put at greater ease.

Speaking to BBC News, Iain Hennessey, paediatric surgeon and director of innovation at Alder Hey, commented: "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.

"How we communicate with patients hasn't changed much over the last 100 years. A leaflet is seen as cutting edge and a website of patient information is award-winning."

However, he added that simply looking after people accounts for around one-third of what doctors do, so the new app will play a valuable part in improving the service patients receive.

The app - which can read as many as 40 million documents in just 15 seconds - is based on one that is already in use at 12 cancer hospitals in the US, helping doctors there to find the most suitable treatments for individual patients.

Written by James Puckle

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