Bot-with-no-name transforms support for catastrophically injured Australians

Pratyush Nalam, a man who uses a wheelchair, puts his finger on the touchpad on a laptop. Accessibility, disability, and inclusion collection.

Each year tens of thousands of Australians are injured on our roads – some of them catastrophically.

More than 36,000 people were admitted to hospital with land-transport related injuries in 2014-15[1]. While it does not break the figures down to State or Territory level, the most recent statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveal that 19 per cent of those are head related injuries.

The Lifetime Support Authority (LSA) oversees the provision of services to people who sustain serious injuries, such as brain injuries, spinal cord injuries including paraplegia and quadriplegia, amputations, burns and blindness, on the roads in South Australia. It finds them, ensures those eligible become part of the scheme, and then works with them to ensure they are supported in order to regain their independence and to be active members of the community, both socially and economically.

Every participant in the scheme has a MyPlan – created in partnership with LSA – that helps steer their treatment, care and support. The MyPlan also provides a metric to measure progress against goals, to tailor services to help meet those goals, and then to establish fresh goals to support people to progress towards their aspirations and maximise their quality of life.

The challenge is that before an effective MyPlan can be crafted, the LSA needs to understand participants’ challenges and understand their goals to ensure the most appropriate services are delivered. Due to the nature of their injuries, as you might expect, many injured people find the process of completing forms or interviews very taxing.

Enter the bot-with-no-name.

Rebecca Singh, LSA’s Director Services explains; “About 75 per cent of the participants in our scheme have a brain injury, and commonly with a brain injury, cognitive fatigue is predominant.” Often LSAs service planners would schedule a two-hour meeting to gather all the information they needed for the MyPlan – but after half an hour the participant was so fatigued they struggle to continue.

The LSA needed to somehow balance the need for patience with participants with the expectation of agency efficiency. At the same time it was important to remain mindful of the transition in disability services which puts greater choice and control into the hands of participants.

Working with Microsoft partner Satalyst and Microsoft’s Cognitive Services bot framework, resident in the Azure cloud, LSA has a pilot underway with the potential to transform the process.

“Having the participant-assisted bot is about starting the process of giving them control over their planning,” says Singh.

Bot supports self-assessment

In order to keep the participant in control of the process, but still gather the information LSA needs, a bot has been developed to allow participants to complete the World Health Organisation’s Quality of Life (Whoqol) self-assessment.

Being cloud based, the bot allows participants to use it when and where they want – and eventually LSA hopes to use similar technology to allow people to create their entire own MyPlan.

In this first pilot phase participants completing the Whoqol are also providing the underlying information that LSA’s service planners need to start developing their MyPlan.

Singh says; “It enables the service planner to have that component of the process already completed. When they then go out to meet the participants to develop the rest of their MyPlan, they can be more targeted in the activities or the questions that they’re asking rather than having to start from scratch.”

“And it also enables the participant to do these activities in their own time, in their own comfort, when it suits them at the pace that suits them.  Pacing is quite important in brain injury.”

Which is also one reason why the bot still has no name. Singh wants participants to come up with a name for the bot – in their own good time.

Singh says the key to success thus far has been keeping an open mind about how technology can be used to address particular pressure points, and also working with a service provider able to navigate both the technology and the use case with sensitivity and understanding.

“The next step will be applying this concept to the whole MyPlan process.  So that our participants can go through all the pre-assessments that we normally do – and then they themselves plan their goals, work out what services they think are going to meet their goals, and which provider they think is going to be able to provide services to meet those goals.

“Then all our service planner will be doing is going out and reviewing the MyPlan with them, making sure that there are no other opportunities that they’re missing out on that we need to add in there, and making sure it meets our legislative need in terms of providing necessary and reasonable services to our participants.

“It’ll very much put the participant genuinely at the driving seat of developing their own services and in control of their own lives.”

[1] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/hospitalised-injury-due-to-land-transport-crashes/contents/table-of-contents

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