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Health|Service|System
Health|Service|System
health|service|system

Locally-developed chatbot helps South African diabetes patients

Guidepost chief medical officer Prof David Segal

Guidepost chief medical officer Prof David Segal

Photo by Guidepost

9th May 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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After a successful trial period of the product, South African healthtech company Guidepost is now rolling out an artificial intelligence- (AI-) powered chatbot that assists people with diabetes to manage their illness better. With diabetes, a person’s glucose levels fluctuate and continuously run at too high a level, causing serious damage to the body.

The chatbot assists those with diabetes through the provision of information specific to each patient, continuously, and individually customised. The service includes individual coaching, by (currently) 100 clinically trained professional nurses who work as Guidepost diabetes educators as well as coaches.

Diabetes affects one in nine South Africans. It is the number one cause of death among South African women and the number two cause of death among the total population. Control of the illness requires daily self-management, to prevent extremely severe medical complications, which can include blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and limb amputations. But many people find it difficult to achieve and maintain such self-management. The chatbot was developed to help them.

“Over several years, we captured the personal pain points of thousands of patients – where and why they struggle, as well as what customised interventions helped them better manage their diabetes,” explained Guidepost CEO Graham Rowe. “This data informed the development of our chatbot, which uses AI tools to automate complex judgements in the management of diabetes.”

With self-management, diabetes patients can keep their glucose levels within normal levels and live healthy and productive lives. During the initial trial period, use of the chatbot saw the three-month average glucose levels of more than 2 000 patients brought down into normal levels.

The company’s system is aligned with other diabetes management technologies, for example continuous glucose monitoring devices. This alignment, plus the information provided by the chatbot, allows the company’s diabetes educators-coaches to monitor the glucose levels of each patient on a continuous basis, helping the educators-coaches provide advice and target their support on an individual basis.

“Doctors and clinicians are not able to micromanage their patients with diabetes daily,” highlighted Guidepost chief medical officer Professor David Segal. “This is the gap that Guidepost is addressing to support patients and improve their health outcomes. We provide patients with the tools and information they need to make better choices and better manage their diabetes.”

The company’s patient base is growing by 15% a month. The AI system now possesses 2.1-million patient data points. More than 304 000 diabetes interventions have been agreed between coaches and patients; these include measurements of blood glucose and commencing exercising.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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