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Six-figure funding secured to develop chatbot for young people with type 1 diabetes

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16 July 2021

Six-figure funding secured to develop chatbot for young people with type 1 diabetes

A team of researchers from Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield Children’s Hospital has been awarded £800,000 to develop the first NHS-approved chatbot virtual assistant for young people with type 1 diabetes who are moving from paediatric to adult care

Press contact: Nicky Swire | nicky.swire@shu.ac.uk

Person at laptop computer

The chatbot will provide support during the transition to adult diabetes services through 24/7 access to relevant, engaging and clinically-approved information that meets individual needs and preferences.

Over 50 per cent of young people with chronic health conditions report inadequate support and services during their transition to adult healthcare.

One-third of young people have poor diabetes control by the time of their first adult clinic visit. 

The project funding has been provided through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Invention for Innovation competition. The chatbot will be co-designed by young people, parents and healthcare providers in a collaboration between Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Sheffield Hallam University, IBM and DigiBete

Professor Paul Dimitri, Honorary Professor at Sheffield Hallam University, consultant paediatrician at Sheffield Children’s Hospital and director of NIHR Children and Young People MedTech Co-operative, said: “Transition from paediatric to adult health services for children with type 1 diabetes and other lifelong conditions is a particularly challenging time and many young people are not adequately prepared for this. By using new technology approaches such as chatbots to support young people, we are able to provide additional support to keep young people engage with their healthcare and in-turn prevent potentially life-threatening and long-term complications.”

In the UK, 29,000 children and young people live with type 1 diabetes, a lifelong condition that requires multiple daily injections of insulin. It is the second most common health condition in children and young people. 

From the age of 16 to 19 years, young people are expected to independently manage their diabetes, including organising hospital appointments, medication and diet. It’s been found that many feel unprepared to move to adult healthcare services which can result in disengagement and poor diabetes control, leading to increased complications and hospital admissions. 

The research team, which is led by Professor Dimitri and includes doctors, nurses, academics, software developers, designers and digital inclusion experts, is also working closely with mHabitat to explore the barriers faced by digitally and socially excluded young people when accessing NHS services.

The research work carried out by Sheffield Hallam’s Department of Nursing and Midwifery will see Professor Veronica Swallow and her colleagues provide training and support for the project’s Expert User Advisory Group and carry out focus groups with young people living with type 1 diabetes to find out what they would like included in the chatbot, followed by a trial of young people’s views on the chatbot. Qualitative interviews with the young people and their parents will also be undertaken after the trial to inform the next stage of the project and to see if using the chatbot has helped young people feel better about self-management.  

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Nicky Swire

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Email: pressoffice@shu.ac.uk
Phone: 01142 252811

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