The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust is working with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) on an artificial intelligence based chatbot to support its neurology services.
It is aimed at helping clinicians decide whether a patient needs to see a consultant and could later be adapted for managing waiting lists for other conditions.
The Walton Centre, which describes itself as a leader in neurology care and neurosurgery, said the effort will initially be focused on the process for outpatient referrals. Patients with headaches make up the largest number of such referrals.
The chatbot will be designed with a set of structured questions for patients referred to a neurology or headache specialist, the answers to which will be fed into a detailed medical history that clinicians can review before the first appointment.
This could lead to placing the patient on a fast track for examination by a consultant, or in less severe cases offering guidance on alleviating symptoms while they wait their turn.
The trust said this could reduce the need for consultants, improve their productivity and reduce waiting times, which currently average three months.
Conversation and cloud
Along with TCS it aims to develop a prototype that will leverage conversational AI and cloud technologies. They have not yet indicated when the prototype could be deployed.
Dr Anita Krishnan, divisional clinical director for neurology at the Walton Centre, said: “Technology is a huge part of medicine and it’s exciting to work with TCS to create a new artificial intelligence based solution which will help our patients.
“The chatbot system also has potential to be extended into other areas of medicine, which could benefit even more patients. We are working closely with TCS and our other specialist partners to ensure the new solution is effective and safe and improves efficiency and patient outcomes.”