Effectiveness of Conversational Agents (Virtual Assistants) in Health Care: Protocol for a Systematic Review.
de Cock C., Milne-Ives M., van Velthoven MH., Alturkistani A., Lam C., Meinert E.
BACKGROUND: Conversational agents (also known as chatbots) have evolved in recent decades to become multimodal, multifunctional platforms with potential to automate a diverse range of health-related activities supporting the general public, patients, and physicians. Multiple studies have reported the development of these agents, and recent systematic reviews have described the scope of use of conversational agents in health care. However, there is scarce research on the effectiveness of these systems; thus, their viability and applicability are unclear. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this systematic review is to assess the effectiveness of conversational agents in health care and to identify limitations, adverse events, and areas for future investigation of these agents. METHODS: The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Protocols will be used to structure this protocol. The focus of the systematic review is guided by a population, intervention, comparator, and outcome framework. A systematic search of the PubMed (Medline), EMBASE, CINAHL, and Web of Science databases will be conducted. Two authors will independently screen the titles and abstracts of the identified references and select studies according to the eligibility criteria. Any discrepancies will then be discussed and resolved. Two reviewers will independently extract and validate data from the included studies into a standardized form and conduct quality appraisal. RESULTS: As of January 2020, we have begun a preliminary literature search and piloting of the study selection process. CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review aims to clarify the effectiveness, limitations, and future applications of conversational agents in health care. Our findings may be useful to inform the future development of conversational agents and promote the personalization of patient care. INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): PRR1-10.2196/16934.