One hospital’s quest to beat smoking, with a little help from AI

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Quitbot illustration shows the Ellen bot avatar customization screen

In a time when there are mobile app chatbots for nearly everything, one Washington state hospital is wielding this technology to address one of the most damaging behaviors to our health – cigarette smoking.

Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer and is linked to 80-90% of lung cancer cases in the U.S. It’s also highly addictive and users usually require multiple tries – and ways – to kick the harmful habit.

The latest cessation strategy comes from Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, which has launched a free, AI-powered chatbot app designed to help users quit smoking. The app, known as QuitBot, uses evidence-based strategies that were developed from over 20 years of research by experts at Fred Hutch.

QuitBot guides users through the process of quitting through specially trained AI, which engages with users through quitting-related conversations and provides answers to their questions. Discussions cover topics like motivations to quit, setting a quit date, and recovering from lapses and relapses. Unlike similar resources, QuitBot provides personalized support to users through their mobile device whenever they get a craving.

“QuitBot goes a step further than other currently available smoking cessation tool by offering users the ability to ask specific questions and receive tailored, scientifically backed responses,” said Jonathan Bricker, Ph.D., professor and behavioral science researcher in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch. “It’s capable of understanding user’s questions about quitting smoking and responding with clinically proven answers. This feature helps make the experience more engaging and meaningful for the user.”