A digital social enterprise and four health charities are coming together to create the UK’s first AI coaching tool to support long term health conditions.

Reason Digital is teaming up with Parkinson’s UK, the Stroke Association, Muscular Dystrophy UK and the MS Society to develop the project, which is set to change the way medical advice is delivered to almost half-a-million people in the UK.

The Digital Health Assistant (DHA) will use machine learning to develop an understanding of the person being supported and continues to adapt to their needs over time based on interactions. This allows DHA to provide emailed content and support specific to the individual’s needs, making it more effective than current alternatives.

"We’re putting the power of AI in the hands of people who need support," said Matt Haworth, Reason Digital co-founder.  

“Diagnosis of a serious health condition such as Parkinson’s, Muscular Dystrophy or multiple sclerosis, or experiencing a stroke, naturally generates an abundance of questions for the person receiving the news. Online research so often results in unanswered questions and out of date, generic information which just adds to the stress and anxiety of an individual’s situation. What people want is curated information and updates from a trusted source.”

AI coaching tool

The tool has been designed to tackle common issues pervading chronic conditions in the UK. These include staff shortages and the lack of tailored and up to date accessible information.

The charities expect it to dramatically improve the quality of practical and emotional care on offer to individuals following diagnosis. Longer-term, it believes it will support them in successfully managing their condition.

The DHA has been undergoing a pilot with Alison Butt, 52, a health visitor living with Parkinson's, one of those to have tested the AI coaching tool.

"I liked the idea of receiving weekly bite-sized tips and this influenced me to find new ways to slow the condition down," she said. "I discovered specially designed exercises for those with Parkinson’s such as PD Warrior, which helps improve functionality and prolong quality of life."

Richard Nash, 54, a physiotherapist living with Parkinson, also trialled the system.

“It was great as there is a real need for two-way information sharing and up-to-date content that’s relevant to each stage of your condition," he said. "It will act as a gatekeeper that can be accessed at any time online. Users won’t have to spend hours researching from unofficial sources online."