Exploring AI and ‘Chatbots’ in healthcare

Posted 12 Mar 2024
With artificial Intelligence – or ‘AI’ - weaving its way into many aspects of daily life, Flinders University researchers have turned their attention to how ‘chatbots’ could help prevent and manage chronic health conditions.

Dr Candice Oster has received a Flinders Foundation Health Seed Grant to prototype a ‘motivational interviewing’ chatbot for further development and testing.

Motivational interviewing is a person-centred conversational style that is widely used in behaviour change counselling to address lifestyle risk factors, including diet and smoking.

“There is significant interest in the use of ‘Large Language Models’, which are computer models that understand and generate human-like text, including a surge in people using chatbots like ChatGPT for healthcare and advice,” Dr Oster explains.

“Chatbots have potential benefit in their application to healthcare, as they can assist health behaviour change by mimicking real-life human support in an affordable and accessible format, allowing people to seek help without fear of stigma or discrimination.

“But there is also risk in their application to healthcare, so this study will explore the potential for Large Language Models to be safely used in the development of patient-facing chatbots for prevention and management of chronic conditions and test how they can be safely used to support vulnerable users.”

Rates of chronic conditions are increasing worldwide, yet Dr Oster says the health system lacks capacity to prevent and manage these conditions.

“New approaches are needed to increase accessibility of evidence-based healthcare for prevention and management of chronic conditions to reduce morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs,” she says.

Project title:  Interrogating Large Language Models for chatbots to support health behaviour change for prevention and management of chronic conditions: A proof-of-concept study

This project is one of 31 exciting new health and medical research projects to receive funding in Flinders Foundation’s annual health seed grant thanks to donations from generous individuals and funds raised by supporters and organisation.

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