Arthritis Research UK taps IBM Watson for virtual assistant

Arthritis Research UK - IBM Watson AI assistant

Arthritis Research UK has teamed-up with IBM to develop a Watson-powered virtual personal assistant to provide information and advice to people living with arthritis. Together with Big Blue, the charity aims to provide people seeking help with access to personalized information from the Arthritis Research UK website, delivered in a form that feels like a natural conversation. The service will be accessible on mobile phones and computers, without the need to download an app. There are currently 300 people with arthritis helping Arthritis Research UK to test and feedback before it is launched publicly on the charity’s website later this year.

Right now, millions of people living with all kinds of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions are googling for answers and that often doesn’t return appropriate results. Also, Arthritis Research UK’s website receives thousands of personal questions about the impact arthritis has on day to day life, symptoms and treatment options.

By tapping into IBM’s Watson Conversation API, the charity has found a new way to quickly and easily provide answers to questions people with arthritis may have. The service will be able to provide every person in the UK seeking information about arthritis, immediate access to the best and most accurate information tailored to them. It will be supported by the charity’s information and enquiries line, where a team will be on hand to help answer detailed or complex questions.

“We know that there are millions of people in the UK living with arthritis whose lives are severely limited as they struggle with unanswered questions,” Liam O’Toole, CEO of Arthritis Research UK, said in a statement. “We want to ensure that everyone has access to information and support, whenever and wherever they need it.”

The digital personal assistant was developed over five months using the charity’s 80 years of research based knowledge and expertise as well as advice from health care professionals, people with arthritis and IBM Watson cognitive computing experts. Over 350 people with arthritis have been involved during this time, to help develop, test and improve the tool. Initially, the service will be able to provide general information about arthritis and exercise that people can print out or save online.

Going forward, the two parties hope to further expand the knowledge base to enable the service to answer even more questions, including those around diet and treatment options.