Talking about your health can be embarrassing for numerous reasons. Despite the fact that informing the doctor of all relevant information is important for them to make decisions on best treatment options, many individuals can withhold information when undergoing a medical assessment. Even in cases where information is disclosed it can often be under-exaggerated in an attempt to save face. This can be very dangerous leading to misdiagnosis, poorly informed treatment decisions and increased potential for negative health event as a consequence.
It seems computer based assessments may be the answer to these problems. In a recent study analysing the effect of ‘virtual humans’ in clinical interviews (Lucas et al, 2014) researchers found that participants were more willing to disclose information when assessed by virtual humans when others were not present. Many participants attributed their willingness to disclose more information to the fact that they felt as if they were being judged when others were present, the use of virtual humans for assessment removed this feeling.
Whilst for now robot doctors are a long way off, the implementation of computer based systems for assessment and monitoring of health and wellbeing are increasing in popularity. Often these systems provide users with immediate feedback and an opportunity to take more of an active role in the assessment and monitoring process. In fact the OPL Lincus system does just that.
Obviously there are several issues with computer based systems including a lack of efficacy, removal of personal relationships and reduced social engagement however the risks may well outweigh the benefits when it comes to optimising individual care.
Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)
Lucas, G. M., Gratch, J., King, A., & Morency, L. P. (2014). It’s only a computer: Virtual humans increase willingness to disclose. Computers in Human Behavior, 37, 94-100.