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Versus Arthritis: AVA

A digital assistant to provide personalised support and advice to people with arthritis

Versus Arthritis is the UK’s largest charity dedicated to supporting people with arthritis. Launched in 2018 following the merger of the two leading arthritis charities in the UK – Arthritis Research UK and Arthritis Care – Versus Arthritis works with healthcare professionals and leading international researchers to help develop treatments and reduce the devastating impact that arthritis can have on people’s lives.

Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions such as arthritis and back pain affect an estimated 18.8 million people across the UK. For people living with the daily impact of arthritis, as well as other MSK conditions, having easy access to accurate and up-to-date information and resources about their condition is crucial.

Aligned with the charity’s mission and objectives, Versus Arthritis launched AVA in 2016 to help tackle this challenge. AVA is a digital assistant that provides a 24/7 resource for people with arthritis and other MSK conditions seeking personalised and easily accessible self-care information.

In 2019, Filament was selected by Versus Arthritis as a strategic partner to help define and deliver a strategy for expanding AVA’s conversational AI capabilities. We partnered with Versus Arthritis to help improve the level of support the charity was able to provide to its beneficiaries by improving conversational analysis and resolution, enhancing analytics and retraining tools, and extending access via partner websites and new channels.

Implementation

Our first challenge working with Versus Arthritis was to help them it move AVA away from its existing platform onto a more cost-effective and streamlined solution. We started by migrating around 3,000 different intents over to our Enterprise Bot Manager (EBM) platform – a significant migration task that also involved validation and testing of the existing programme.

We soon realised that the amount of information AVA contained was unmanageable in its existing state. As a medical-based concept, subject matter experts were required to ensure the answers AVA provided were factual and accurate. These SMEs helped to build AVA, but the content had become increasingly difficult for them to manage.

By splitting the information into more digestible pieces – i.e. different domains such as surgery, self-care etc. – we were able to effectively restructure and reorganise the data at the back end. As well as making it significantly easier for the Versus Arthritis team to manage the digital assistant, it also enabled us to introduce new features.

For example, these included a helpline integration feature that let users book an appointment to speak to a helpline advisor directly through the digital assistant. The platform queries a calendar, identifies any free slots, and offers them to the user – integrating with internal Versus Arthritis processes and adding value to the end user.

Results

The updated and enhanced AI digital assistant has been a significant success for Versus Arthritis and its user base. Hosting AVA on the EBM platform has provided the flexibility to swap between different natural-language processing (NLP) providers as required, enabling Versus Arthritis to use the best platform for the job without adding costs.

Other benefits include:

  • An exponential increase in the number of conversations – from 8,371 to 33,403 in 12 months
  • A 35% reduction in the time taken to add or amend content
  • A 50% increase in efficiency for people using AVA to speak to a helpline advisor

“EBM has been a great support to us as we’ve expanded AVA’s capabilities to provide people with arthritis with the support and advice they so desperately need, The technology has clearly proven itself and the additional services we’ve developed on top of the platform have added significant value. We’re excited about where AVA could go next.”

Karina Brisby

Head of Digital and AI | Versus Arthritis

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