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Title Patient-Computer Dialogue
Author(s) Warner V. Slack, MD; and Charles W. Slack, PhD
Source NEJM, Vol. 286, No. 24, Pages 1304-1309
Publication Date June 15, 1972
Abstract Doctors as interviewers are busy, expensive, and sometimes hard to find. It seems reasonable, therefore, to look for substitutes that will serve at least some of the purposes of medical interviewing in widespread and inexpensive ways. One possible substitute is the computer, programmed as an interviewer... We want people to be able to talk during a computer-based interview. We reasoned that English text on a cathode-ray screen could be a good stimulus for promoting talk. Furthermore, information obtained from keyboard responses during a computer interview could be used to select text designed to encourage talk that, although not understood by the machine, would be of relevance to the person. Accordingly, we developed a computer program capable of controlling a tape recorder (and sensing when someone is talking into it) in conjunction with conducting a medical interview. With this program, people can be encouraged to talk about their own problems, and recorded messages can be left for the doctor... We have shown that people will talk to a computer (sometimes in a manner remarkably similar to the way they talk to a doctor) about problems of importance to them... Four of our subjects thought they might have been helped by talking to the computer, and eight believed that the solitude in which they talked to the computer helped them to verbalize their thoughts.

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