Dr. Caldwell on the use of conversational agents in health care

Commentary
Video

“To the point where a child would come in and request to see a cartoon character was really quite interesting for me,” says Patrina H. Y. Caldwell, BMed, FRACP, PhD.

In this video, Patrina H. Y. Caldwell, BMed, FRACP, PhD, highlights an additional take-home point from the publication, “A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Web-Based Management Support System for Children With Urinary Incontinence: The eADVICE Trial.” Caldwell is an associate professor in the discipline of child and adolescent health at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Video Transcript:

I was surprised at the children's acceptance of the conversational agent. I was really surprised when I eventually saw some of these patients who waited their time and finally came to clinic and saw me, some of them–and they're not necessarily young children, it might be someone who's 9 or 10–would come and say to me, "Do we get to meet Dr. EVIE now?" Now, Dr. EVIE is our conversational agent, and she's a cartoon character. And she's obviously a cartoon character, but they identified with Dr. EVIE We also did some work looking at whether they felt that they interacted with Dr. EVIE [or] whether they felt a connection with her. The response was that patients felt she cared for them; patients felt she wanted to help them. To the point where a child would come in and request to see a cartoon character was really quite interesting for me. I don't know if this is pediatric-specific, but certainly in the area of pediatrics, I think we need to be careful. Because if we had conversational agents that they believe are real and [they] disclose, for example, risk of harm stuff or suicide ideation [to the ECA], we have a moral responsibility to make sure that that's addressed. So, depending on the area, it just highlights a lot of interesting things about using conversational agents, how to use it well, and how to be careful with them.

This transcription has been edited for clarity.

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