Wefight answers questions about chronic illness with its virtual assistant

Meet Wefight, a French startup that has developed more than a dozen apps to help people suffering from chronic illness. Using a basic chatbot interface, people can ask questions and get answers about their illness.

The startup recently raised an $11.6 million (€10 million) funding round from Digital Health Ventures and Impact Partners, as well as existing investors Investir&+ and BADGE’s business angels.

Wefight has developed a different app for each chronic illness. They’re all based on the same virtual assistant called Vik. There are currently more than a dozen apps about depression, asthma, multiple cancers, etc.

Essentially, Vik acts as an interface between the patient and Wefight’s content. The company has developed everything in-house, from natural-language processing technology to the framework that Wefight leverages to create new apps.

Every time a patient asks a question, the service tries to understand the meaning of the question and finds relevant information in the knowledge database.

It can then relay and serve content to the patient. Content has been written by professional pharmacists and tries to be as informative and neutral as possible. This way, you don’t necessarily have to wait for your next doctor’s appointment to go through your list of questions.

“Vik isn’t going to replace someone in the care pathway. It’s there to fill a gap,” co-founder and CEO Benoit Brouard told me.

And it seems like there’s a gap indeed. More than 400,000 people have tried the service so far. Vik has delivered 5 million answers. There are 70 people working for Wefight right now. Wefight tries to find new users by talking with patient organizations.

When it comes to the business model, Wefight works with pharmaceutical companies to finance new apps. Turning a treatment into a commercial success involves making sure that patients can identify the chronic illness they’re suffering from. And Vik acts as a top-of-the-funnel content provider.

“We reduce clinical inertia. When a lab decides to finance Vik Asthma, the lab doesn’t have any influence on the content that we create,” Brouard said. “Laboratories want patients who suffer from asthma to go and see a pulmonologist,” he added.

This way, the pool of patients who could potentially end up buying a specific drug is bigger. It’s a convoluted sales strategy for pharmaceutical companies. But something like Vik could improve the quality of life of patients.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to expand to other countries with a new office in Berlin. Every time Wefight launches an app in a new market, the company hires local health professionals and contact local patient organizations. It’s a long process, but that’s how Wefight can get it right for patients all around the world.