Smart Agents to Reduce the Parent Health Literacy Burden in the Care of the Children with Medical Complexity


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  • Associate Professor, Pediatrics
  • Associate Professor, Epidemiology & Population Health (by courtesy)

(Partner:  Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Science)

This inter-disciplinary project addresses two formidable health care realities: the growing number of patients with chronic conditions who require coordinated care from multiple medical providers, and a growing chasm between the complexity of health information and individuals’ health literacy. To meet these challenges, researchers are developing the following four computational capabilities that would support parents caring for children with medical complexity:

(1) algorithms for multi-agent information sharing among teams that have both human and computer agents. This includes the computation of value of information and decision-making about the timing of information-sharing actions. These algorithms will support providers and patients in establishing, executing, and tracking medical and non-medical goals in integrated care plans;

(2) a mixed-expertise crowdsourcing platform  that enables a hierarchical, mixed-expertise crowd (health providers, community health workers, patients, and caregivers) to produce, at scalable levels, culturally sensitive, patient-centered information materials (text and visual) for improving chronic-care self-management;

(3) techniques for augmenting physician-patient dialogues both flexibly and courteously. This effort aims to empower patients more fully in decision-making during physician-family encounters; and

(4) interfaces that enable unobtrusive, remote collection of information  about changes in children’s clinical states between medical encounters. Developed by Harvard University post-doctoral students under the mentorship of Professor Barbara Grosz, each of these four capabilities will be prototyped and tested in community-based partnerships supervised by Dr. Lee Sanders at the Complex Primary Care Clinic at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University.