AI chatbot partners with pharma to support IBD patients during Covid-19

Apr 6, 2020

Dutch startup Nori Health is offering free access to its AI-powered digital coach to support people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis during COVID-19. 10 million people worldwide live with IBD including approximately 500,000 people in the UKand 3.4M in Europe.

Since Coronavirus recovery depends on the strength of the immune system, those living with a chronic disease like IBD are at higher risk of severe infection. As countries around Europe go into lockdown and healthcare systems are overwhelmed, Nori Health is being offered to IBD patients unable to seek support from traditional healthcare services.

“With many IBD patients isolated for weeks to come and those with severe conditions and compromised immune systems advised to undergo ‘shielding,’ (an enhanced form of self-isolation) the Nori Health programme can offer vital support in the absence of medical care and while patients are unable to interact with their usual support network,” explains Roeland Pater, Founder and CEO, Nori Health.

Founded by Roeland Pater in 2017, himself diagnosed with Crohn’s as a teenager, Nori Health helps people with IBD to better manage their condition day to day, reduce suffering and address mental impact.  The eight-week programme – typically offered as an intervention in between hospital visits – provides unlimited chat conversations and works by mapping users’ lifestyle patterns (covering 100+ lifestyle factors proven to impact the quality of life for those with IBD) and actively suggesting tailored changes such as diet, taking medications correctly, sleep and exercise.  

The highly personal nature of symptoms experienced by IBD patients means they are able to talk more openly with the Nori chatbot. The programme has been designed with this in mind to build trust, create an empathetic relationship and establish a bond between the user and the app with the goal of enhancing engagement and ultimately improving IBD condition management. 

Following successful trials conducted with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of The Netherlands whereby participants reported improved management of their condition by a third and over half no longer missed social activities as a result of their disease – a leading global pharmaceutical corporation has partnered with Nori and has rolled out the digital coach to its IBD patients in the Benelux region.

The start-up is also seeing strong demand from healthcare organisations and insurance firms. Two Dutch hospitals will imminently offer Nori Health to support its 5,000 IBD patients during the Coronavirus and beyond. A third hospital in The Netherlands, Haaglanden Hospital is also exploring ways to offer the programme to its patients during this period.

Sander van der Marel, gastroenterologist at Haaglanden Hospital comments: “These are stressful times for everyone. For people living with chronic illnesses like bowel disease it’s even more challenging as social isolation, stress and uncertainty can have a debilitating effect. With weeks and potentially months of isolation ahead, digital tools like Nori Health can provide extended care encouraging a healthy lifestyle and offering mental support while also helping to relieve the pressure on our already overstretched healthcare workers.”

IBD patients can register for free access to the programme via the Nori Health website and will receive a response the same day. The programme is currently available in English and Dutch with a French language version launching in early April. The Nori Health team will continue to add more languages in the coming months.