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"Ask Oli" chatbot starts an AI revolution in children's healthcare

Two nurses walking in the hospital gardens
(Credit: Alder Hey Children's Hospital)

A groundbreaking collaboration between the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree® Centre and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital is harnessing the power of intelligent computing to personalise healthcare and enhance the patient experience.

left-hand quote markThis is an unprecedented opportunity to transform working practices in healthcare and enable doctors to spend less time on paperwork and more time with patients.right-hand quote mark

Iain Hennessey
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital


Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool treats over 275,000 children and young people each year. Renowned for its commitment to clinical excellence and patient experience, the hospital is now driving to become the UK’s first ‘cognitive hospital’ using intelligent computing technology to enhance the patient experience.


To turn this aspiration into a reality, the Hartree Centre is developing ways to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into the hospital using IBM Watson. Working closely with Alder Hey healthcare professionals, AI and data experts from the Hartree Centre are tailoring and training Watson to the hospital’s needs. The first step was the collation of new and existing data to enable Watson to understand how the hospital works and develop a thorough knowledge base. This has been used to create chatbot “Ask Oli”, using the hospital’s mascot elephant character to interact and answer questions in real time, reducing patient and family concerns in a way that is both innovative and fun.

left-hand quote markWe’re really enthusiastic and excited but clear that the technology itself has to be useful and deliver benefits to patients. It’s one of the reasons we’re happy to work with organisations like the Hartree Centre and IBM, because they can match our clinical expertise and patient knowledge with their groundbreaking technology.right-hand quote mark

Iain Hennessey
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital


Through this project, the Hartree Centre is helping Alder Hey to forge a path towards more personalised treatment, enhanced health outcomes, increased patient satisfaction and significant cost savings. From quicker identification of clinical trends, to monitoring admission patterns to aid planning, the potential is limitless.

At Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, the initial focus is on making medical treatment less daunting for children and their parents or carers. By providing information and reassurance via apps and avatars, this project is one example of how AI technology could result in happier, healthier children. By putting patient engagement at the heart of their treatment in a new and unique way, the project is providing a fresh template for the future of healthcare.

At a glance

  • First step is bespoke chatbot “Ask Oli” trained and tailored to suit needs of the hospital
  • Trial version in use within website and app for patients and guardians to help train
  • Reduced anxiety for children and families
  • Using AI to enhance the patient experience
  • More doctor’s time spent with the patient
  • Demo brings the potential to improve healthcare services across the UK

Read the full case study

Alder Hey case study (PDF, 612 KB)

Last updated: 30 May 2019


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