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Versus Arthritis launches UK’s first condition-specific coronavirus chatbot

17 Apr 2020 News



Versus Arthritis has developed an AI chatbot for people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions affected by Covid-19. 

It says it is the first coronavirus chatbot to be developed specifically for people with a long-term health condition in the UK.

COVA was developed by the charity's in-house digital team with support from AI specialists Filament in just 14 days. 

Versus Arthritis had been experiencing a significant increase in demand on its helpline, website, online community and social media channels.

COVA incorporates health information with answers from Versus Arthritis as well as the British Society for Rheumatology, the NHS and GOV.UK. Versus Arthritis is currently exploring partnerships with other health charities to see if they can add relevant information to COVA, and so expand its capability.  

The virtual assistant is designed to guide users to the most relevant answer with buttons on four key areas: medical advice, guidance on isolation, maintaining mental and physical health and managing work and finances.

COVA utilises a coronavirus risk calculator developed by the British Society of Rheumatology to help people with arthritis and MSK conditions assess whether they are more vulnerable and should self-shield.

Amanda Neylon, director of insight, data and technology at Versus Arthritis, said: “Getting up-to-date, high-quality, trusted health information and services that are available 24/7 are important at the best of times, but particularly during our current crisis. COVA is a one-stop shop where people with arthritis and MSK conditions can go with confidence to get the information they need to maintain their health and wellbeing.

“Our helpline and face-to-face services provide essential support for people every day. During this period of uncertainty, we need to increase our digital services - which include our online community, website health information, social media, and virtual assistant - to support the millions of people with arthritis and MSK conditions particularly those who are most at risk from Covid-19.

“We’ve been pioneering the use of AI technologies in the charity sector for several years with our chatbot AVA. Our nimble and innovative response will have a big impact for people in a time of great change and uncertainty.”

The charity is looking to expand COVA with a full text-chat interface in the coming weeks.

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