How can conversational agents best support patients with chronic disease?

In their research article titled Long-term effectiveness of mHealth physical activity interventions: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized-controlled trials, the authors Christoph Gross, Theresa Schachner, Andrea Hasl, Dario Kohlbrenner, Christian Clarenbach, Florian von Wangenheim, and Tobias Kowatsch, looked at different interaction styles between patients and conversational agents (CAs) who take on the role of medical professionals.

The authors conducted two studies, starting off with a cross-sectional questionnaire study with patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In the study, patients indicated their preference for paternalistic, informative, interpretive, or deliberative CA-delivered interaction styles. In a second online experiment with COPD patients, the effects of the paternalistic and deliberative interaction styles on the relationship quality between the CA and patients were then assessed via hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses.

The authors found that, independent of demographic characteristics, the 117 COPD patients had a preference for either the deliberative or the informative interaction style. The patients who preferred the paternalistic style had more severe COPD, indicating that it is beneficial to adapt the interaction style of a CA depending on the severity of illness.

For further details, please watch the second author’s video abstract below and refer to the full research article.


Schachner, T., Gross, C., Hasl, A., von Wangenheim, F., Kowatsch, T. (2021). Deliberative and Paternalistic Interaction Styles for Conversational Agents in Digital Health: Procedure and Validation Through a Web-Based Experiment, Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), 23(1):e22919, 10.2196/22919. [PDF]

Visual Abstract

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