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Alder Hey introduces a revolutionary children’s hospital app to transform patient care across the NHS

Alder Hey patient Miley using the appA 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 advances.   It 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 will also be able to 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 Hartree Centre (part of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council and supported by IBM), using IBM’s Watson technology to 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.”

The Alder Play app is available for iPhone and Android via your app store.

Funding for Alder Play has been provided by Alder Hey Children’s Charity, Shop Direct, Liverpool John Lennon Airport and NHS England. A number of other partners have also supported the project by providing free content, including Hasbro, FACT Liverpool, Jungle Interactive, Lucy Casson, TATE Liverpool, The Hartree Centre, IBM, Studiowide and ustwo.

Supporting quotes:

Nicki Sprinz, Managing Director, ustwo London said: “ustwo is immensely proud of the work we’ve done in partnership with Alder Hey. Our mission is to make products and services that have a meaningful impact on people’s daily lives and we cannot think of something more meaningful than working with Alder Hey to transform children’s experience of hospital.”

Hartree Michael Gleaves, who is Deputy Director of the Hartree Centre and led their team on this project, said: “This was a great opportunity for the Hartree Centre to apply our expertise in cognitive technologies to real world problems.  Helping patients and their families reduce their overall anxiety when in hospital.”

Jeremy Stevens, strategy and external communications director at Shop Direct, said: “We were hugely proud to raise £250,000 during our year-long charity partnership with Alder Hey. The charity really is close to everyone’s hearts here at Shop Direct, and we know the app will make a massive difference in improving the lives of children and their families who visit this amazing hospital. We loved working with the Alder Hey team to offer our help on creating the app and can’t wait to see the children’s reactions.”

Carol Dutton, HR & Community Director for Liverpool John Lennon Airport added, “Over the past 12 months staff at the Airport have been working really hard raising funds in a whole host of fun ways as part of our charity partnership with Alder Hey Children’s Charity. The movement of patients and their families through the hospital often resembles that of passengers through the Airport and some of our Managers have also offered advice to help maximise the benefits of this fantastic and innovative app.”

Craig Wilkins, Marketing Director, Hasbro UK and Ireland said: “We’re so impressed by the high-level of care children receive at Alder Hey and immensely proud to continue supporting the hospital and charity. It’s deeply saddening that illness can affect those so young, and we’re honoured to launch an app, using our animated content, to give these inspiring children encouragement and relief during their hospital experience.”

Professor Keith McNeil, Chief Clinical Information Officer for Health and Care at NHS England, said: “This is a great example of innovative digital technology being applied to solve a real world problem for children, young people and their parents receiving care in today’s NHS. It looks great fun too!”

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