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Novo Nordisk, AIDA, the first Italian chatbot that supports and empowers diabetes patient

Ventures, products, and services

Healthcare & Pharma

Novo Nordisk

2020

Challenge

To understand the evolution of the digital health market and the specific needs of diabetic patients in order to design a high-tech digital assistant with emotional empathy to support and educate patients and caregivers.

Solution

By researching trends and co-designing with Novo Nordisk and diabetologists, we were able to develop AIDA (Artificial Intelligence Diabetes Assistant), the first Italian chatbot for diabetics that answers questions about prevention and the effects of the disease, lifestyle and nutrition.

Impact

AIDA is the first Italian chatbot for diabetes answering questions related to the prevention and effects of the disease, lifestyle, and nutrition. In about 3 years we reached +8K unique users between patients and caregivers on 3 channels (website, telegram, fb) and +25K total interactions.

Over the last few years, Novo Nordisk has become increasingly interested in technology and innovation, which has prompted the company to become more actively involved in researching and developing cutting-edge solutions in the field of Digital Health.
With this in mind, Novo Nordisk asked for our assistance in designing and developing a digital assistant that would make it easier for diabetic patients, caregivers and diabetologists to obtain information and answer questions about the disease.
Our approach is highly collaborative: we design for – but above all with – people. We therefore developed a design process that would allow us to help our customers understand how best to support patients according to their needs, step by step. The process included four phases: research, user analysis, co-design and development, and communication.
The research phase allowed us to identify and map changes in the market, focus on the needs of the stakeholders involved and identify feasible project opportunities.
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Through user analysis, we were able to concentrate on specific people whose needs served as our starting point: our target were people undergoing treatment, doctors and physicians, and patients’ associations. We held focus group sessions with the aim of understanding the needs and points of view of those involved.

 

By putting together the insights from the research and user analysis, we were able to guide the co-design phase. For the AIDA co-design session, several experts gathered around a table and, together, we defined:

 

  • the role of AIDA: a virtual assistant that conveys trust, empathy and authority so that it can become a positive, easy-to-use and ever-present source of guidance;
  • the thematic areas on which AIDA would be an expert: diagnosis, lifestyle, prevention and complications, nutrition;
  • a hundred or so “certified” questions and answers that the chatbot would have contained at the time of its launch: a good starting point that quickly became something bigger.

“By working together, sitting at the same table, implementing a thorough co-creation process, we have been able to come up with new ideas, which we then put into practice, and to lay the foundations of what would later become AIDA. It was a stimulating and productive opportunity that allowed us to achieve exactly what we wanted.”

Fabrizio Pieraccini Digital Marketing Manager at Novo Nordisk

AIDA is based on both Machine Learning models and proprietary semantic algorithms through a simple mechanism: users type in their doubts in the chat, the sentence is analyzed and “pre-chewed”, i.e. processed through a linguistic pipeline, and then passed on to the Natural Language Understanding (NLU) module, which tries to understand its meaning and gives the answer it deems most appropriate.

 

During the last phase, i.e. communication, we were faced with the challenge of AIDA’s identity, which should not create misunderstandings due to its appearance: AIDA should not be mistaken for a customer service or doctor, nor should it convey the message that real people are behind its answers. We came up with a contemporary and clear image and identity that conveys innovation, trust, empathy and authority.

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The chatbot (switched off in 2023) could have had accessed by the website landing page and Telegram (@aida_chatbot). It can answer questions and concerns relating to the everyday life of a person with diabetes, provide information or advice on a healthy lifestyle, sports and nutrition.

The voice assistant can be accessed via Alexa and, although it does not replace a doctor or provide information on medication, it answers nutrition-related questions, suggesting healthy and delicious recipes. Users choose a recipe and AIDA guides them in preparing it.

“In a year as pivotal as 2020 in which new fears arose and the fragility of people with diabetes emerged, we launched AIDA, the first Italian chatbot dedicated to diabetes. We believed in it and want it to become an increasingly important resource for people living with diabetes, helping them to take control of their own care, and for their doctors, who can thus benefit from a high-tech, scientifically reliable means of support for therapeutic teaching.”

Stefania Rinaldi Senior Marketing Director at Novo Nordisk
Innovation excerpt

Our skills in service design, visual and content design and artificial intelligence combined with the expertise of NovoNordisk and diabetologist experts allowed us to create a certified assistant capable of providing answers with the appropriate level of empathy.

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