Using AI to support people with long term illnesses

Using AI to support people with long term illnesses

A partnership, between a social enterprise and four UK health charities, is working to create the UK’s first AI coaching tool to support those with long term illnesses.

Reason Digital, Parkinson’s UK, the Stroke Association, Muscular Dystrophy UK and the MS Society are developing an artificial intelligence-based project which is set to revolutionise the way individuals seek medical advice and information in the UK.

The Digital Health Assistant (DHA) uses machine learning to develop an understanding of the patient in order to adapt to their needs over time.

Alison Butt, 52, a health visitor living with Parkinson’s who tested the assistant, explained; “When I first heard about an AI health assistant I thought it sounded innovative and wanted to take part in a project to help others with Parkinson’s.

“I have been living with the condition for the last year after noticing a tremor in my right hand. Following diagnosis by a neurologist I was given a hefty folder of information which was overwhelming. I refused to Google my condition and instead found the Parkinson’s UK website very helpful. I joined a local support group and spoke to my friend who also has the same condition.

“I’ve found there’s an ongoing process of coming to terms with the condition. The DHA trial was a real eye-opener, I liked the idea of receiving weekly bite-sized tips and this influenced me to find new ways to slow the condition down. I discovered specially designed exercises for those with Parkinson’s such as PD Warrior, which helps improve functionality and prolong quality of life. The weekly classes I attend are motivating, run by neuro physios and help correct posture and strengthen your core.”

Richard Nash, 54, a physiotherapist living with Parkinson’s who trialled the system, added; “After being diagnosed in January I was asked to take part in the DHA pilot. 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. When it’s developed DHA will be a reliable and relevant portal that’s efficient and accessible. It will act as a gatekeeper that can be accessed at any time online, so users won’t have to spend hours researching from unofficial sources online.

“The main challenge I’ve encountered since diagnosis is a psychological one, as I’m concerned about keeping my job and thinking about the future. It’s been hard coming to terms with how things will be. I found researching Parkinson’s online hard as there’s no filter and some sites are untrustworthy. DHA is a real breakthrough as it’s convenient, can be accessed at home, is official and guides you every step of the way. ”

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