Establishing the computer-patient working alliance in automated health behavior change interventions

Patient Educ Couns. 2005 Oct;59(1):21-30. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2004.09.008.


Current user interfaces for automated patient and consumer health care systems can be improved by leveraging the results of several decades of research into effective patient-provider communication skills. A research project is presented in which several such "relational" skills - including empathy, social dialogue, nonverbal immediacy behaviors, and other behaviors to build and maintain good working relationships over multiple interactions - are explicitly designed into a computer interface within the context of a longitudinal health behavior change intervention for physical activity adoption. Results of a comparison among 33 subjects interacting near-daily with the relational system and 27 interacting near-daily with an identical system with the relational behaviors ablated, each for 30 days indicate, that the use of relational behaviors by the system significantly increases working alliance and desire to continue working with the system. Comparison of the above groups to another group of 31 subjects interacting with a control system near-daily for 30 days also indicated a significant increase in proactive viewing of health information.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Computers*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Software
  • User-Computer Interface*