Project Everest

The Warm Heart of AI

Annabelle Bennett
Annabelle Bennett | Jan 12, 2018 | in Health Consulting

As of the end of week 2, the Health team has been fully immersed the communities of Nancholi and Blantyre City, smashing data collection goals and gaining some really valuable insights from the survey responses provided by locals.


Based on these interactions, it has become quite clear why Malawi is considered to be the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’. On the whole, respondents have been very open to answering questions and doing all that they can to welcome us to their communities. In line with this, we were able to speak to a clinician this week who shared that patients were much more receptive to a welcoming and positive attitude than to a cold and clinical assessment, as well as being less likely to trust the latter.


With this in mind, it may be worth considering whether or not technology is a viable alternative to face-to-face human consultation within the context of Malawi.  The Your.MD app (our existing MVP) exists in the Australian context essentially as a chat-bot, whereby patients can engage in a message-based conversation with cognitive technology and enter their symptoms until a solution is found. The system as it stands takes a very clinical approach to pre-diagnosis, and may therefore need to be adapted to better suit the expectations of Malawian demographics.


So far this month, the Health Team has checked out a variety of other pre-diagnostic apps to identify features that might be adapted and implemented within the skin of our MVP. One such app had a symptom checker function similar to that of Your.MD, but incorporated a more emotional engagement through the use of interim messages between symptoms, asking more personable questions such as;

- “I’m sorry to hear that”

- “Thank you for sharing”

- “Oh no, that must be difficult”


Incorporating a more emotional approach such as this is may enable a stronger sense of empathy between user and interface, leading to strengthened trust in the app. It is important to remember that whether consulting with a person or with AI, especially regarding something as personal as health, all people want to feel like they are being heard.  



XOXO, Healthy Babes

Matt Allan Jan 13, 2018

Hey Annabelle, seriously wicked idea - brilliant application of chatbots.

I've worked in teams that have done lots of analysis about how humans interact with chatbots. These chatbots were designed to sell targetted products, based on the information we gathered from the customer. Our research found, surprisingly, that people consistently responded better to chatbots when they made no attempt to express empathy. This happened because people knew they were talking with a robot, and so any expression we programmed was interpreted as ingenuine.

This was a shock to us. The environment is totally different in your case, but it's an assumption I'd recommend testing to see what the data says.

Down the line, you may even like to consider photo analysis of physical diseases. V interested to see how your team goes with this!

Any questions - reach out :)

Reply 3

Gabriel Raubenheimer Jan 22, 2018

Hi Annabelle,

Very much agree with Matt, about making sure the app feels genuine - engendering trust is one of the most important things we can do, especially when we need to boost adoption of new technologies.

I very much like your analysis of potential issues regarding computerisation. If you do further research on this, or have more ideas, please post about them. I'm very interested in how this progresses.

Reply 2

Annabelle Bennett Jan 22, 2018

Thanks so much for your feedback! We're really excited about the potential uses of technology in the context of Malawi health, but have also faced some concerns regarding viability and potential negative impacts. I'll be posting more about this in the coming days and would be really keen to get your insights.

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