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Nuance Foundation Grants

Intelligent Agents to Support Health Care Coordination and Communication

Description: Harvard University


Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), as a “connector and integrator,” offers students an unparalleled opportunity to be part of an excellent engineering school inside of one of the world’s foremost research universities. Moreover, students enjoy the intellectual energy of a liberal arts college where they can engage in scholarship spanning the sciences, social science, art and humanities and gain an understanding of societal issues through the University’s professional schools.

Project: Intelligent Agents to Support Health Care Coordination and Communication

Barbara Grosz, Ofra Amir

Teamwork and effective mechanisms for care coordination are of increasing importance to health care delivery and patient safety and health. This proposal describes a project aimed at enabling intelligent agent systems to be collaborative partners of patients and their health care pr+B1oviders supporting both care coordination and improved communication of medical information to patients and their families. The proposed research project will contribute to a longer term effort to develop “Care Augmenting Software PartnERs” (CASPERs). This proposal describes research in two problem areas central to constructing CASPERs: developing efficient agent decision-making techniques for information sharing in care coordination and designing techniques for agents to appropriately augment patient-provider communication. The planned approach for the first topic will build on prior work of the applicants on modeling collaboration, helpful behavior, interruption management and collaborative interfaces. It will proceed in stages from simpler to more complex settings to address the information-sharing challenges of the care coordination domain. The augmented communication topic will aim to develop assistants that might whisper in the ear of patients and providers during appointments, playing a role similar to that of a trusted friend or patient advocate by suggesting appropriate reminders and relevant information to add to their current conversation. For example, if a new drug is mentioned, the agent might use online databases to determine whether any side effects conflict with the patient’s existing treatments or goals, and then prompt the patient to ask a question.


O. Amir, B.J. Grosz and R. Stern, “To Share or Not to Share? The Single Agent in a Team Decision Problem", Proc. Workshop on Models and Paradigms for Planning under Uncertainty, 24th International Conference on Automated Planning and Scheduling, June 2014, New Hampshire USA.

Programs & Grants

100 years ago nobody would have imagined that it may make sense to talk to machines. Today, in the days of speech recognition and speech synthesis to be found in cars, computers, phones and many other devices this is already normal. But it doesn't stop there.

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