The Royal Marsden Hospital has launched its first ever virtual assistant to provide staff with up-to-date information on workplace policies.

Ask Maisie, powered by IBM Watson Assistant, will provide key workers immediate access to Covid-19 HR related information and policies, as well as updates on hospital and workplace guidance as the country comes out of lockdown.

When the pandemic hit it sparked an unprecedented surge in staff requesting information from HR on childcare, shielding, workplace arrangement and testing and more, according to a statement from IBM.

To help manage the influx of enquiries the hospital began working with IBM to develop its virtual assistant.

As the country comes out of lockdown key workers will be able to use Maisie at any time via the hospital’s intranet to get rapid and consistent information on topics from advice for high risk workers; how to self-isolate; what happens when you receive official shielding letters; to what to do if your child is off school.

All responses will be based on information from trusted sources including the hospital’s official workplace policy handbook as well as national bodies such as NHS England.

Ellen Mossman, deputy director of HR at the Royal Marsden, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has meant we’ve had to make a lot of changes very quickly to our work across both the clinical and non-clinical areas of The Royal Marsden. As a result, there have been a huge number of HR changes and queries, and it’s been fantastic to work with IBM to create a virtual solution to help the team triage these requests so we can prioritise the critical issues.”

Andreas Haimböck-Tichy, director healthcare and life sciences at IBM UK and Ireland, added: “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.

“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.”

The technology uses natural language processing, delivered through the IBM public cloud, to continue evolving its understanding of interactions with users.