IBM Watson Assistant is supporting families living with pediatric diabetes

By October 4, 2020

For the past 46 years, the Diabetic Children Foundation / Fondation Ressources pour les Enfants Diabetiques (affectionately known as Fred) has been supporting families in Quebec whose children are living with pediatric diabetes. Working as a non-profit organization – and the only one of its kind in Quebec – Fred delivers teaching and information programs, support groups, opportunities for families to make connections, and even a yearly specialized camp for diabetic children and teens. To maintain a budget that supports these activities, Fred also focuses a great deal of effort on fundraising events. Unfortunately, like many other organizations in Canada, COVID-19 has undermined the activities of Fred, putting its mission in jeopardy.

The IBM ProBono volunteer program in Montreal delivers AI technology in the face of COVID-19

We knew we could no longer provide the resources families living with diabetes need given most of our programming usually takes place in person, which has caused even greater concern as children and parents need more support and information than ever. Also, we were forced to cancel the fundraising activities our budget depends on. It was at this point that one of our volunteers, Alexandra Guy, a business development leader at the IBM Client Innovation Centre in Montreal, proposed an idea that would make a significant difference for our families and the foundation.

Alexandra’s daughter was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 10 and has depended on the support Fred has provided her family for the past four years. She knows how important this organization is to others in the same situation.

IBM Watson Assistant uses Artificial Intelligence and natural language processing to support children living with diabetes

With the support of the IBM Canada ProBono volunteer program, Alexandra and eight other IBM employee volunteers have brought IBM Watson Assistant to Fred. This AI-powered virtual assistant is available in Quebec and across Canada 24 hours per day in both French and English to answer questions related to diabetes care, parent support, school concerns, and the organization itself. The IBM team also added a capability that can respond to questions pertaining specifically to COVID-19. Additionally, we are exploring ways to use this technology to support our fundraising efforts.

Since we launched our Fred virtual assistant on July 27th, we have already had more than 5000 engagements with members of our community looking for help, and the IBM team is continuing to work with us to further expand our services.

Six months ago, the future of Fred was bleak. The IBM team did an exceptional job throughout the process, completing this project for us under extraordinary circumstances. The result is beyond our expectations and now, with the support of IBM, the ProBono program, and Watson Assistant technology, I feel assured we can continue to support our families living with pediatric diabetes by providing them with timely access to necessary resources and information.

Claire Rousse, General Director, Diabetic Children Foundation / Fred, Fondation Ressources pour les Enfants in the province of Quebec