Alder Hey Children's Hospital launches "Alder Play" app developed with Hartree Centre cognitive experts
11 Dec 2017
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Alder Hey enhances patient care with a revolutionary digital approach to a child's stay in hospital.

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(Credit: Alder Hey Children's Hospital)

A new approach to children’s stay in hospital has been launched that will help Alder Hey improve patient care at its facility and across the NHS. Created by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and Alder Hey Children’s Charity in partnership with leading digital studio ustwo and designed with the help of young patients, the Alder Play app is powered by the very latest digital and cognitive computing advances. The app has been supported by NHS England and NHS Digital and has great potential to help other hospitals across the NHS.

The app uses gaming and augmented reality to distract patients having procedures in hospital. Young patients choose and name their own avatar which will help them understand their hospital visit before they arrive and help calm them during their stay. Their avatar ‘pops up’ at various hospital locations during their visit and helps patients collect ‘rewards’ following procedures that allows them to access new content.

Within Alder Play, parents can interact with a chatbot called “Ask Oli” to ask questions about the hospital and what may happen to their child. Alder Hey has been working with the Science and Technology Facilities Council's (STFC) Hartree Centre to develop the platform using IBM’s Watson technology and enable questions to be answered in real time. This will be the first time cognitive technologies have been applied in any hospital in the UK, in this way.

Alder Hey Consultant Nik Barnes, who originated the idea of Alder Play, explained: 

“Our vision is to transform the experience of children in hospital. We wanted to distract patients during procedures, and reduce their worries and fears. Rewarding children following procedures and treatments was another vital element as it helps to encourage their progress. Rewards can be given for something as simple as having a dressing changed, to getting out of bed after an operation or having a scan.”

The Alder Hey app is being supported through the global digital exemplar programme with funding being provided by Alder Hey Children’s Charity, Shop Direct, Liverpool John Lennon Airport and NHS England. The Alder Play app has only been possible through a collaboration of expertise from the health, retail, travel and technology sectors.

Integral to the app’s design and development has been the opinions and views of children and young people. Five years ago, seven year old patient Niamh Barnes suggested to hospital staff the idea for an app to be created that would distract children like her while they were in hospital. Niamh has continued to inspire the app’s developers, alongside a number of other patients from the hospitals Children and Young People’s Forum.

Niamh said: 

“It’s exciting to see the app coming to life and providing entertainment for other children like me. I really like the ‘Ask Oli’ page which is really helpful and means kids and parents can ask questions about their stay in hospital.”

Michael Gleaves, Deputy Director of the Hartree Centre, said: 

“This was a great opportunity for the Hartree Centre to apply our expertise in cognitive technologies to real world problems. We're thrilled to be helping to reduce anxiety and stress for patients and their families when in hospital.”​
​The Alder Play app is available for iPhone and Android via your app store.​​

Read the full press release

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