Royal Marsden powers virtual COVID-19 agent with IBM Watson

IBM Watson
IBM Watson

The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust has partnered with IBM to launch an AI-powered virtual agent that will provide staff with up-to-date HR and workplace information as the UK emerges from lockdown.

Ask Maisie, powered by IBM Watson, will give the Royal Marsden’s hospitals in London and Surrey the capacity to manage its workforce by serving as an information hub accessed through the intranet.

Common questions can be answered through automation and AI with the HR department freed to engage in more complex areas, and handle more sensitive matters. Ask Maisie combines IBM Watson Assistant and natural langue processing (NLP) capabilities through the IBM public cloud.

“As the pandemic evolves so have the long term implications on healthcare which include a growing expectation for immediate and remote access to trusted information,” said director for healthcare and life sciences with IBM UK and Ireland, Andreas Haimböck-Tichy.

“This has led to many healthcare providers accelerating digital transformation plans to give clinicians time to focus on patients alongside helping to manage the physical and mental health of their key workers. Digital transformation in healthcare is not just limited to the clinical environment.

"Modern technology has an incredible potential to change the way a hospital operates for the better and help revolutionise the care patients receive.”

Topics the staff can access range from advice for high-risk workers, how to self-isolate, and what happens when staff receive official shielding letters. The sources of all information will be ‘trusted sources’ including the hospitals’ own policy handbooks as well as official bodies such as NHS England.


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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a highly disruptive force, but for many public sector organisations, it’s given development and engineering teams an opportunity to implement digital systems to help deliver services.

For Royal Marsden, the crisis has triggered the need for technology to help manage its staff, with the organisation claiming the right investments in technology can help organisations build resilience and prepare for any future turmoil.

Now that Ask Maisie has been launched, it can continue to enhance it knowledge-base as well as learning from interactions it has.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.