11th November 2020

New Healthcare Tech Fast-Tracked to Support Covid 19 Crisis

–The new health chatbot, which puts people at its heart–

A new healthtech chatbot, Ask Ave, has been making a meaningful impact during the pandemic. While it was originally created to assist those with Cancer and their families, due to its flexible design it has been adapted quickly for use to tackle people’s concerns about Covid 19.

The health chatbot, which puts people at its heart, has played a huge role in NHS Scotland, supporting over 110,000 Covid-19 messages from concerned people during its soft launch alone.

Connecting during Covid
The power of talking is encouraged, especially right now during Covid-times. However, for some people, talking face-to-face or over the phone about illness can be difficult. Not only in terms of discussing their symptoms but getting the words out to describe how they feel. It’s about Human Equity, connecting with people is part of being human, but so too is the need to help those people who can’t.  It was on this basis that a new piece of health tech has been created and built– a platform that breaks down the barriers by allowing anonymity.

The chatbot has been so successful in engaging with those that would otherwise not want to discuss the situation that it is now being rolled out to deal with Flu immunisation and vaccine queries on the NHS Inform platform in Scotland.

The tech has revealed some interesting successes. It has been able to extend its reach to those that the NHS has struggled to engage with previously  These are people who are often usually lost in the system or would not engage and they are now better informed and able to protect themselves by simply have the ability to ask questions on their terms day or night.

Speaking about the new application Avril Chester said, We’re so pleased that we’ve been able to support our NHS colleagues at this difficult time, using concepts from our cancer chatbot to help people affected by Covid-19. Working with our technical partner Amido we have applied our joint learnings from working with Cancer Central and NHS Inform to drive growth, efficiency and innovation to Ask Ave to provide  people with a new way to quickly access reliable medical information.’

Rooted in support
Ask Ave is the brainchild of Avril Chester, who founded Cancer Central in 2018 following her battle with the disease. Avril noted the disparate channels to find support for practical issues and services such as local societies or taxi hire to deeply personal ones such as financial, hats or wigs. She founded Cancer Central, which won the Digital Leaders HealthTech innovation ward 2019, as a ‘cominovation’ platform: a hub where community and innovation gather to help cancer patients and their carer’s. To support this initiative, Ask Ave was created as a conversational search – a virtual assistant, which learns as it interacts with people.

Founder Chester said, ‘At conception stage of Cancer Central we ran a ‘hackathon’ with lots of bright minds in the technology industry asking: where shall we start and how best do we achieve the vision? A number of teams recommended to build a solution with a conversational search as people wish to ask questions during a time of need – the Cancer Central chatbot Ask Ave was born.

 Why Ask Ave? Ave is my nickname. I still feel very uncomfortable naming our chatbot after myself, but my board and advisory panel encouraged me to do so.’

Ask Ave is launching in December 2020 under its own brand which was created by Design By Structure. The agency was briefed to evolve the brand’s visual identity, modernising its aesthetic, making the logo so it’s more readable. Provide a clear proposition/ high level messaging so that people can understand what the service is about and an endorsement mechanic, ‘powered by’ lockup when it is licensed to a 3rd party. The chatbot was created with pro-bono support, engineered by Amido, hosted by Microsoft, and supported with SMS texts by Twilio.

This story first appeared in Health Tech World.

Published by: Fara Darvill in Thought leadership

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