PM360 2018 Trailblazer Awards Marketing Team of the Year Novo Nordisk

Patient Marketing & Digital Health Innovation

Novo Nordisk

Agency Partners: Verint Systems Inc., HyperPointe

Team Members:

  • James Donohue, Sr. Manager, Patient Marketing & Digital Health Innovation
  • Amy West, Sr. Director, Patient Marketing & Digital Health Innovation
  • Betty Webb, Manager, Patient Marketing & Digital Health Innovation

Diabetes requires care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. Unfortunately, access to care is not available 24/7/365. That is until the Patient Marketing & Digital Health Innovation team at Novo Nordisk built “Sophia,” an artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant with human-like emotions.

But, even before they landed on the idea for Sophia, the team was building off of a strong program. Launched in 2009, Novo Nordisk’s Cornerstones4Care was created as an omnichannel education and support platform for patients and caregivers to supplement the care they receive from their HCP and extended care team. Over the years, the program has evolved and improved to meet patient and caregiver needs, but one consistent challenge has been the supplemental support needed for this population, for example, coaching services and personalized resource support. Even more important, these services must be available at the time patients need them, which is not always convenient.

Engagement on consistently spikes during “off” hours when healthcare providers, coaches, and customer care agents are not readily available—the time in the late hours of the night or early in the morning when patients have to focus on themselves and their disease. The Patient Marketing and Digital Health Innovation team was tasked with solving this challenge.

Sophia Was Born

While chatbot is a popular buzzword at the moment, the fact is that real-world, successful implementations of this technology are few and far between. And yet, the team knew the idea of a digital, intelligent assistant was the best solution for the problem of helping address patients’ issues in the off hours. However, it couldn’t just be a robotic assistant. At the core of Novo Nordisk is patients, so the team knew the technology had to be designed with the innate ability to form an invisible connection based on empathy and understanding as a human.

A digital assistant like this is created using natural language processing and natural language understanding to comprehend consumers in their own words and provide assistance or answer questions, anytime and anywhere—while constantly learning and improving. The challenge within the heavily regulated space of healthcare was to ensure that the virtual assistant was designed around patient empathy while mitigating any potential risk to patients and the organization around privacy and product safety.

Addressing legal and regulatory concerns specific to privacy, product safety, and accuracy were addressed through strategic partnerships with internal and external stakeholders across various business units, including Verint Systems Inc. and HyperPointe. Through numerous demos, design sessions, privacy discussions, content development, and heavy documentation, the team was able to appropriately tackle each concern. Finally, in April 2018, Novo Nordisk launched its own AI technology resource—Sophia, a diabetes-specific AI chatbot and digital assistant on Cornerstones4Care, with the goal of improving the navigation and user experience on the channel and to provide 24/7 support. Sophia became the first manufacturer-sponsored diabetes-specific intelligent assistant powered by natural language processing and artificial intelligence available to the public.

Artificial Intelligence with Real Compassion

Sophia was designed to put the care back in patient care. Going beyond just digital conversations, Sophia is designed to form an important connection with visitors through compassion, empathy, and heart in the way she interacts. And, as a long-term strategy, the learnings obtained through Sophia and her interactions will continue to better the understanding of the everyday challenges of people living with diabetes.

In the short time Sophia has been live, the engagement rate is upwards of 15% with minimal promotion. With more than 2,500 unique users and conversations within the first month of launch, Sophia is proving to be beneficial by responding to more than 80% of questions asked with a smart, accurate response designed to support visitors. Sophia only becomes smarter following each interaction and is quickly becoming a valuable support tool for patients living with diabetes and their care team.


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