Merck: Abbi 2016

abbi intro

Abbi is a chatbot built to learn about an MS patient's physical condition and then suggest them relevant and goal-oriented rehabilitation exercises at given times in the day.
Together with Abbi, we want to help MS patients to stay independent, and take control of their own life.

Patient support programs are provided by pharmaceutical companies to support patients by helping them manage their health and treatment, starting from the point they are prescribed medication. Current patient support programs are primarily delivered through call centers, web pages, and home nurses. While those services provide the general information and help in medicine usage, they fail to reach patients due to a lack of focus on the patient’s daily lives and tailor to the specifics of their condition. They also do not leverage the possibilities present technology has to offer. Today’s patient support programs are out of date, and new solutions need to be implemented.

team photo merck
Our team consists of 3 students from Aalto ME310 and 3 students from University of St.Gallen Design Thinking course. Together with Merck, we aimed at designing a holistic support system for chronically ill patients to address patient needs in the best possible way using the Stanford Design Thinking process. In practice, this means guiding the patients from diagnosis until the end of their patient journey, as well as enabling efficient two-way communication with pharma and their caregivers.

We have focused on multiple sclerosis patients and the healthcare ecosystem around them. During the project we conducted interviews and tested prototypes with 19 multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, 3 neurologists, and the US, German and Spanish call centers of Merck. Besides the interviews and tests, we also organized a workshop with Merck patient support program providers from various countries in Europe, with the goals of identifying the wishes for the support programs of the future from Merck staff, and learning the challenges and constraints faced by current support programs.

The most crucial patient need identified is that a patient needs to overcome the loss of control over their own life, caused by the unpredictable nature of MS. Our proposal is to design a system that provides personalized suggestions and actionable instructions to the patient in real time, and encourages them to take an active role in their own treatment and fight the disease on a daily basis. By doing that, patients can get the most suitable treatment for themselves, and take back the control of their lives from MS. This has led to “Abbi”, which is a conversational application that can be used on several platforms such as Telegram, Facebook and others. It offers tailored exercises focusing on different parts of the body and can answer questions from the user. These questions are based on the Rebif FAQ provided by Merck Germany, and can be adapted for other purposes as well.

Looking into the future implementation of Abbi, we want to enable patients to efficiently record information regarding their disease, its treatment, and its progression in an easily accessible and understandable format. At the same time, they should be able to use this platform to communicate their treatment needs efficiently to their chosen healthcare professionals, caregivers and possibly to third parties like health insurance providers.