A Dutch AI health start-up has revealed plans to launch in the UK and help 20,000 citizens in its first year.
Nori Health has raised $670,000 in pre-seed funding from an angel investor and completed successful trial of it AI-powered digital coach for people living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
The disease affects more than 300,000 people in the UK and 3.4 million in Europe alone.
Nori Health was founded in 2017 with the backing of an EU Horizon 2020 grant.
“We will start pilot programs with UK partners at the end of 2019,” co-founder and CEO Roeland Pater, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease as a teenager, told BusinessCloud.
“In 2020 the programme is publicly available and as mentioned we aim to offer this nationwide. Our goal is to provide the program to 20,000 UK patients in the first year.
“We are exploring the options to establish a separate office in the UK. For now London seems like the most logical choice but this will be decided in the coming months.
“As we like to be close to our users, and work with them personally through trials and pilot programs, it makes sense for team members to be in the UK.
“Ideally it will be made available nationwide. But this depends on the progress we make with possible partners. For now it’s too early to say.
“We are talking to many potential partners but as these discussions are ongoing, we cannot disclose organisations at this point.”
The six-week virtual trial, conducted in partnership with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of the Netherlands, showed an average increase by almost a third (28 per cent) by participants when rating the daily management of their condition at the end of the program.
This included improvements in habits such as diet, hydration and taking medications correctly. The results were even more pronounced in relation to user’s social lives, with more than half (56 per cent) indicating that they did not miss any social activities due to their condition – while this was not the case two weeks prior to starting the programme.
Nori Health’s founding team says it understands the constant pressures – both physical and mental – inherent in managing a long-term health condition.
After years spent battling the condition and frustrated with the limited support offered to people with IBD, Pater set out to develop a digital tool that would help reduce the suffering and address the mental impact of the disease. The invisibility of IBD coupled with the stigma and misunderstanding of the condition means that thousands are suffering in silence.
“Doctors don’t have much time for Crohn’s sufferers unless urgent medical intervention is needed, so people like me usually end up with a 15-minute appointment twice a year,” Pater said.
“Secondly, it’s well known that lifestyle changes can make a huge difference to the level of suffering, but there is no one-size-fits all solution.
“Thirdly, the personal nature of the symptoms can prevent people from speaking openly about them.
“I decided an AI-powered chatbot was the way to help me – and potentially millions of others – identify and change what was making me sick.”
The Nori Health chatbot program provides unlimited conversations over a six-week period, setting it apart from the many healthcare apps that constantly monitor behaviour, but leave the onus on the individual to work out what should change to get the results they want.
With Nori, the digital coach takes the lead, mapping lifestyle patterns and actively suggesting tailored changes. The chatbot is armed with scientifically-proven data from the get-go, while AI technology is used to keep making Nori smarter as it learns from the whole community of users.
Nori Health will use the funding to focus on business development and to bring the solution to market in both the UK and The Netherlands by the end of 2019. It is planning a second trial later this year, which will be followed by a live pilot running a ready-for-market version of the chatbot for early users to try out.