Say hello to Sophia, Novo Nordisk's new online chatbot, available 24/7 for diabetes questions

Novo Nordisk is hoping diabetes patients will "Ask Sophia," its first online chatbot, their questions and concerns regarding their condition. (Novo Nordisk)

Move over, Siri and Alexa: There’s a new voice in town. Meet Sophia, Novo Nordisk’s first chatbot built specifically for people with diabetes.

Sophia is available on the Danish drugmaker's Cornerstones4Care website, visually presented on the home screen as a woman’s smiling face on the right-hand side “Ask Sophia” tab. One click opens a dialog box with Sophia’s friendly greeting and offer to help. The chatbot, which launched in April, directly answers questions and addresses concerns—or forwards or redirects when it doesn’t know the answer—but also learns through human interactions and will consistently improve over time at addressing questions and needs.

So far, Sophia has had more than 11,000 conversations and been asked more than 27,000 questions, said Amy West, the senior director overseeing patient marketing and digital health at Novo Nordisk. Meanwhile, Novo is also learning through patient questions things like what content it needs to bolster and what different types of content people prefer.

Sophia was born after Novo noticed spikes in online traffic to its Cornerstones4Care.com website between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., reinforcing the need for information outside standard HCP hours.

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“People are looking for information when they have time, which is late at night after the kids are in bed or when they’re not working, and when their treatment team is not available,” West said.

Novo built Sophia on artificial intelligence and natural language processing technology, but it also included work around empathy and human connections to create the approachable and relatable Sophia persona.

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Cornerstones4Care debuted in 2011 as an omnichannel patient support system that includes offline, email and telephone support along with the online digital presence. The Sophia concierge is one of the steps Novo is taking to advance technology into AI and other areas like voice assistants as it moves to offer patients more than just medicines.

Novo believes that product plus wraparound is “critically important,” West said, especially in chronic disease states like diabetes. Patient engagements like Sophia provide education and support with medicines and medical teams that can lead to better outcomes and better quality of life.

Novo's diabetes treatments include its newer once-weekly GLP-1 injection Ozempic, along with its older Victoza, a shorter-lasting form of the drug.

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