Tata AI chatbot cures NHS waiting-list headaches

  • August 3, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is developing an AI-based chatbot to reduce the three-month waiting time for NHS patients in the UK to see a specialist consultant.

TCS is working with the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust (Walton Centre) to develop digital ways to increase the productivity of specialists, reduce waiting times for patients, and enhance the experience.

To begin with, the two organisations will focus on transforming the experience for outpatient referrals to neurologists. According to the Walton Centre, patients with headaches make up the largest number of such referrals, with a three-month average waiting period to be seen by a consultant. TCS will develop an artificial intelligence-based chatbot that could transform the way headache patients are diagnosed and treated at the centre in Liverpool.

The chatbot will interact with patients being referred to a neurology or headache specialist and collect details of their condition and the symptoms through a structured set of questions. This will be used to compile a detailed medical history that clinicians can review before the first appointment with that patient and recommend a further course of action.

Depending on the clinician’s assessment, a patient may be put on a fast-track to be examined by a consultant or offered guidance on alleviating symptoms while they await their turn. The chatbot will reduce the need for specialist consultants, whose time is very scarce, to spend their first appointment asking those questions.

This should enhance their productivity and help bring down the waiting time for patients. The chatbot will also provide information to the patient to help them prepare for, and get the best out of, their first appointment.

This will be developed as a prototype and will leverage cloud native, serverless technologies and conversational AI, to ensure clinical safety and effectiveness.

“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,” said Anita Krishnan, divisional clinical director for neurology at the Walton Centre. “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.”

Shalini Mathur from TCS added: “We are pleased to partner with the Walton Centre to transform patient care in UK using next-gen technologies. These technologies will help reduce waiting times for patients while improving the productivity of specialist consultants. This creates a blueprint for similar digital innovation in other clinical settings.”

TCS is an IT services, consulting and business organisation that has been partnering with many of the world’s largest businesses in their transformation journeys for over fifty years. A part of the Tata group, India’s largest multinational business group, TCS has over 606,000 consultants in 55 countries. The company generated consolidated revenues of $25.7bn in the fiscal year ended March 2022.