The Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is trialling an AI-powered app which promises to improve teamwork amongst employees, developed by London-based startup Saberr.

The Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is one of the earliest adopters of the CoachBot application, which Saberr brought out of beta testing this month.

© Saberr
© Saberr

CoachBot is an attempt by the startup to replace the work typically done by an external human team building coach. It aims to help teams get better at setting goals, making decisions and identifying roles by streamlining the process and taking it out of a classroom setting.

CoachBot does this by using machine learning to hunt for patterns in the data to predict which actions are most likely to help them. By ingesting data from 105 academic articles on individual, team and organisational performance, CoachBot has been trained to spot patterns and make good managerial suggestions. Saberr hopes that it will get more intelligent and nuanced as it goes along.

Sandy Rogers, chief scientist at Saberr, explained: "An important advantage for CoachBot here is the ongoing-experience design of a bot. Most team performance studies measure teams at a single time-points, and compare teams to one another. Even most longitudinal studies usually have only a few time points per team. CoachBot is an app designed to increasingly take advantage of machine learning."  

"As these datasets grow, we'll start being able to train CoachBot's AI to understand that somebody saying 'I don't even know if these people like what I do' means they'd like better feedback from their team."

The chatbot asks team members questions to work out the team dynamic before pulling this into an initial report, showing areas of improvement. From there it provides a development plan, including toolkits, exercises and bite-sized learning to help the team improve.

The initial trail between Saberr and the NHS trust will last 12 months once it goes live later this month. It will be rolled out across 30 inpatient and clinical employees, and both sides will work together to track employee engagement with the app, performance reviews and even patient outcomes.

The trust was a keen early adopter of the technology, according to Stacie Coburn, a principal advisor at Eastern Academic Health Science Network (EAHSN), an organisation tasked with driving innovation across NHS trusts in the East of the UK.

Speaking to Techworld, Coburn explained: "Our remit is to support adoption of innovation, so we seek out technology which hasn't been tested in the sector before."

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Coburn's department is focused on boosting workforce productivity across the health sector, and they first came across Saberr through its values-based recruitment tool - called Base - and looked to expand the partnership around six months ago by adopting CoachBot.

Jess Lievesley, director of service delivery and service user experience at HPFT, said of the technology: "It has great potential for us because it offers bitesize coaching that the teams can work on at a time that suits them. It means we don’t have to take days out of service for long courses and if we need to move things around due to patient needs we can do so without incurring extra cost.”

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Coburn added: "When you look at coaching teams, it is tricky in organisations as large as Herts Park, as the workforce is dispersed and getting people to take time out of their clinical duties to do development activity is really difficult. This means it doesn't happen frequently, or in the traditional format of a person coming in every six months to do team building work.

"So CoachBot is accessible at a time that suits the individuals and helps them work collectively, as teams choose how much or how little they interact, and hopefully they see the value regularly," Coburn said.