Towards a Personal Health Management Assistant

This article describes a prototype of a Personal Health Management Assistant, a computer program designed to help individuals with heart failure improve self-management of their health. The Health Assistant can interact with patients with heart failure via speech or typing and can proactively assist with home care.

Researchers chose to develop a conversational Health Management Assistant for heart failure because heart failure is highly prevalent and costly to treat; has well-understood best practices; and is amenable to self-management for many patients. The prototype Assistant collects data from users, processes the data for meaning and shares information using the Project HealthDesign Common Platform.

Key Findings:

  • New personal health records should utilize objective and subjective observations from patients to improve self-care. The personal health record should be able to both record and respond to these observations.
  • If personal health records are to help people improve their health across multiple diseases and domains, more effective communication standards between systems must be developed.
  • Computerized Health Assistants raise several ethical, social and legal issues. These include the ethical ramifications of substituting computer care for human care, the legal issue of whether a Health Assistant should be considered a medical device, and the social consideration of whether computerized devices will counter personal isolation of patients with heart failure.

The Health Assistant prototype for health failure demonstrates the potential of highly interactive computerized programs to help individuals better manage aspects of complex diseases at home. This study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Project HealthDesign.