Theses Doctoral

Enabling Automated, Conversational Health Coaching with Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence

Mitchell, Elliot Griffith

Health coaching is a promising approach to support self-management of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes; however, there aren’t enough coaching practitioners to support those in need. Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have the potential to enable innovative, automated health coaching interventions, but important gaps remain in applying AI and ML to coaching interventions. This thesis aims to identify computational approaches and interactive technologies that enable automated health coaching systems. First, I utilized computational approaches that leverage individuals’ self-tracking and health data and used an expert system to translate ML inferences into personalized nutrition goal recommendations. The system, GlucoGoalie, was evaluated in multiple studies including a 4-week deployment study which demonstrated the feasibility of the approach.

Second, I compared human-powered and automated/chatbot approaches to health coaching in a 3-week study which found that — a scripted, theoretically-grounded chatbot designed through an iterative, user-centered process — cultivated a coach-like experience that had many similarities to the experience of messaging with actual health coaches, and outlined directions for automated, conversational coaching interventions. Third, I examined multiple AI approaches to enable micro-coaching dialogs — brief coaching conversations related to specific meals, to support achievement of nutrition goals — including a knowledge-based system for natural language understanding, and a data-driven, reinforcement learning approach for dialog management. Together, the results of these studies contribute methods and insights that take steps towards more intelligent conversational coaching systems, with resonance to research in informatics, human-computer interaction, and health coaching.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Informatics
Thesis Advisors
Mamykina, Lena
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 15, 2021