Developing a chatbot to support young people with type 1 diabetes mellitus


Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM) is the second most common condition affecting children and young people (CYP), with 29,000 CYP living with T1DM in the UK.

CYP with long-term conditions like T1DM are required to move from children’s to adult health services when they reach 16-19 years. In adult healthcare, young people are expected to self-manage their condition despite many young people lacking the confidence and knowledge required to do so. Many research studies have shown that moving to adult health services often leads to young people having poor engagement with their clinical teams and consequently poorer health outcomes.

National guidance states that paediatric clinical teams should help prepare young people for adult services from the age of 11. However, many clinical teams do not have the time to help each young person in the way that is best for them.


Digital platforms such as chatbots have the ability to provide young people with easily accessible psychosocial, medical, and educational/vocational support in a format they are familiar with. Chatbots also have the potential to reduce the burden on clinical teams by providing young people with clinically approved information.

We are therefore developing and evaluating the first NHS user-led clinically approved transition chatbot for young people with T1DM using IBM Watson as the artificial intelligence platform. The chatbot will be hosted on the DigiBete website and app. DigiBete is a video platform and social enterprise that was created in partnership with the Diabetes Team at Leeds Children’s Hospital. We are working in collaboration with young people and clinical teams across the country to ensure the chatbot meets their needs.


Basic idea

Concept development

Prototype development

Prototype validation

Clinical testing

Regulatory approval


Commercially available


Support and guidance to secure funding

NIHR CYP MedTech led on the successful funding application to the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), including co-ordinating the project team and taking overall responsibility for grant writing.

Access to NHS clinical teams

NIHR CYP MedTech identified relevant clinical partners and facilitated introductions to the project team.

Project management

NIHR CYP MedTech are leading on this project, with our Clinical Director acting as Chief Investigator. NIHR CYP MedTech are responsible for project management of the study.


The project team are currently undertaking a multi NHS site study. This includes the development and curation of the chatbot in collaboration with IBM, young people, and clinical teams as well as a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the chatbot. The study is due to close in 2023.


T1DM is a serious, lifelong health condition affecting millions worldwide. Poorly controlled T1DM can have life threatening complications. These complications are most often seen in 15-20 year olds. Improving self-management skills in young people is therefore essential to reducing the number of young people who develop serious, and potentially life-threatening, complications.


The project team have been awarded £780,863 from the NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) Product Development Award programme.



Last updated: 18 May 2022