Meet Ali, the avatar nurse who wants to help people to manage their atrial fibrillation

By Dr Coral Hanson, Senior Research Fellow, Edinburgh Napier University

Atrial fibrillation is a common abnormal heart rhythm that affects more than 2 million people in the UK. People with atrial fibrillation are more likely to have a stroke and these strokes are more likely to be severely disabling than strokes of other causes. A medication that prevents blood clots from forming (an oral anticoagulant), reduces this risk by two-thirds. However, 75% of people with atrial fibrillation do not take their medication as recommended either because they do not understand or believe in their medications, or forget.

We wanted to develop a digital solution to help people to remember to take their medication. At the start of the project, we talked to people who had atrial fibrillation and asked them what they thought should be included in a mobile app. They told us that they wanted to know more about their medication, get reminders to take it, and be able to record what they had taken. They also wanted easy to understand information about their condition and know when to seek medical help for symptoms.

The team at the Centre for Cardiovascular Health, colleagues at Flinders University in Adelaide in Australia, and a technology company called Monkey Stack developed a mobile health app called My AF Nurse: available at Google Play: My AF Nurse or  Apple: My AF Nurse.

Developing the app

First, we developed a storyboard that contained everything that would be in the app, and a script. We recruited one of our Scottish nurse colleagues to be the ‘voice’ of the app and students from the School of Arts and Creative Industries filmed her reading the script. The avatar’s facial expressions are based on the expressions of our ‘real Ali’.

Monkey Stack used the film and audio recorded by our students to create the finished app.

The My AF Nurse app

Ali, the avatar atrial fibrillation nurse is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help people to manage their atrial fibrillation. The app is jam packed full of information. We talked to cardiologists, doctors, other nurses, and patients to make sure we covered all the important stuff. Information is broken down into bite size chunks, so that users can listen in their own time, as many times as they want.  There is a medication tracker to help users to remember to take their medication at the right time, every time.

Testing the My AF Nurse app

Now that we have created the app, we are testing whether we can recruit patients to use it via their GP surgery or cardiology clinic. We are exploring how they use the app and trying to understand the best way to measure whether users take their medication. More information about this study can be found at:

Find out more about our research linked to Atrial Fibrulation

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