Arthritis charity launches chatbot to offer Covid-19 advice

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A new chatbot is to offer health advice to arthritis sufferers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The online tool has been developed by UK charity Versus Arthritis and is thought to be the first of its kind to specifically help people with a long-term health condition during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The tool, called Cova, has been developed in just two weeks and can be found on the Versus Arthritis website, where it offers information on medical advice and medication, isolation guidance, maintaining mental and physical health and managing work and finances.

Chatbots are artificial intelligence-powered tools which can automatically reply to questions and quickly provide the information requested by a user.

The COVA chatbot on the Versus Arthritis website
The Cova chatbot provides information to arthritis sufferers around Covid-19. (Filament)

The charity said the chatbot can also be added to any website through a simple piece of code.

It added that the tool had been created after it saw a 71% increase in calls to its helpline from February to March.

The chatbot also includes a coronavirus risk calculator, developed by the British Society of Rheumatology, which helps people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions assess whether or not they are more vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is the charity’s second chatbot, following Ava, a virtual assistant released more than three years ago which offers general health information to people with arthritis and other MSK conditions.

Amanda Neylon, director of insight, data and technology at Versus Arthritis said the aim of the new software was to give people more options for getting vital health guidance.

“Getting up-to-date, high-quality, trusted health information and services that are available 24/7 are important at the best of times, but particularly during our current crisis,” she said.

“Cova is a one-stop-shop where people with arthritis and MSK conditions can go with confidence to get the information they need to maintain their health and wellbeing.

“Our helpline and face to face services provide essential support for people every day.

“During this period of uncertainty, we need to increase our digital services, which include our online community, website health information, social media, and virtual assistant, to support the millions of people with arthritis and MSK conditions particularly those who are most at risk from the coronavirus.

“We’ve been pioneering the use of AI technologies in the charity sector for several years with our chatbot Ava.

“Our nimble and innovative response will have a big impact for people in a time of great change and uncertainty.”

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