How Watson IoT may transform your next hospital stay

By | 4 minute read | October 5, 2016

leadspace image for jefferson hospital doctor reviewing results

My last visit to a hospital was to see a friend who was recovering from surgery. At the time, I was filled with relief that she was doing well, and it didn’t even occur to me that my work at IBM could one day make a hospital stay more comfortable for patients and their loved ones.

In the United States, the privatized healthcare system allows patients to choose where to go for their treatments.  There is real competition among hospitals. As a result, patients and their families increasingly expect an excellent customer experience. Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Philadelphia and Harman International have long realized this trend and have cultivated an innovation team to look at how new technologies can improve the experience of patients and their loved ones.

“Being in a hospital can often be a hectic, anxiety-ridden, or even intimidating experience for patients and their loved ones. If we can minimize that discomfort, even a little, we are doing a lot to increase the well-being and care of our patients. Thanks to our visionary President and CEO, Dr. Stephen Klasko we are able to invest in new innovations like the Watson IoT-powered speakers to give our patients the ability to interact in natural language to get basic, but important, information about their hospital visit without having to buzz in for a nurse.”
– Neil Gomes, Vice President for Technology Innovation and Consumer Experience at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health.

The cognitive concierge in your hospital room

A few months ago, IBM Watson IoT, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Inc. and Harman International formulated an idea around the future of healthcare. They envisioned a hospital setting where patients can speak naturally to a cognitive concierge in their hospital room that will be able to answer questions, adjust their environment, and anticipate their preferences.

Welcome to the cognitive environment of care

Very soon after those early conversations, the teams got to work on a pilot project to produce a working prototype of a cognitive environment of care where we can all get a glimpse into the future of healthcare.

User experience becomes natural interaction

Imagine the family around a hospital bed. The patient turns to a speaker: “I am cold! Please make it a bit warmer in the room.  Oh, and please raise the blinds for more light.” As if by magic, the room complies with the request. The patient then asks “What’s for lunch today?” and hears a menu of options. A visitor then asks “Please tell me about the doctor looking after my friend” or “What are the visiting hours tomorrow?” … You get the idea. This prototype is just the beginning. There is a deeper trend of making technology fade into the background to the point where user experience becomes about natural engagement and interaction with the environment. It is not a far stretch to foresee that cognitive-assisted services will supplement all manners of care in offering a more personalized experience.

Introducing ‘cognitive care’

Voice assistance is giving way to ‘cognitive care’ and it can apply to patients at a hospital, seniors at home, students at school, or any service provider that requires individual attention. For example, a cognitive system combined with the Internet of Things can interact through objects in a senior’s home, learn and anticipate their habits and needs, and offer guidance or encouragement at the right time and place. With cognitive care at home, elderly people living alone can be more independent; they can receive reminders for appointments and medications; they can access care services through voice; and their family and caregivers can feel assured that they will be alerted of any issues or changes to their health or well being.

The amazing thing about the technology is that it can answer questions and execute requests that are very specific to the context of the user. This is possible because Watson can correlate information across building systems, patient records, CRM systems, and administrative records.

“Watson is great at working with unstructured data, like voice, text, or image recognition, but what makes it completely unique is that it is secured and designed to be configured and trained on enterprise data where no other cognitive system has gone before.”
– Amit Fisher, Cognitive Offering Leader at IBM Watson IoT.

Watson can draw patterns and remember preferences for follow-up visits, allowing for a personalized, engaging, and interactive patient experience. The greatest advantage is that patients are enveloped by a responsive, cognitive, and personalized environment of care – when they need it most.

We are on the cutting edge of inventing a cognitive future that will deliver completely amazing customer experiences. We are working with leading thinkers and innovators, like Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Harman International, to put the experience of users above all and usher in the Cognitive Era. I will not go as far as saying that I look forward to sitting in a hospital room, but I will say that I am excited for the difference that we are going to make in people’s lives through our cognitive IoT solutions.