Contextual Conversational Agent to Address Vaccine Hesitancy: Protocol for a Design-Based Research Study
Al Suwaidi, Hanan
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Abstract: Background: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been exposed to misinformation, leading to many myths about SARS-CoV-2 and the vaccines against it. As this situation does not seem to end soon, many authorities and health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), are utilizing conversational agents (CAs) in their fight against it. Although the impact and usage of these novel digital strategies are noticeable, the design of the CAs remains key to their success. Objective: This study describes the use of design-based research (DBR) for contextual CA design to address vaccine hesitancy. In addition, this protocol will examine the impact of DBR on CA design to understand how this iterative process can enhance accuracy and performance. Methods: A DBR methodology will be used for this study. Each phase of analysis, design, and evaluation of each design cycle inform the next one via its outcomes. An anticipated generic strategy will be formed after completing the first iteration. Using multiple research studies, frameworks and theoretical approaches are tested and evaluated through the different design cycles. User perception of the CA will be analyzed or collected by implementing a usability assessment during every evaluation phase using the System Usability Scale. The PARADISE (PARAdigm for Dialogue System Evaluation) method will be adopted to calculate the performance of this text-based CA. Results: Two phases of the first design cycle (design and evaluation) were completed at the time of this writing (April 2022). The research team is currently reviewing the natural-language understanding model as part of the conversation-driven development (CDD) process in preparation for the first pilot intervention, which will conclude the CA’s first design cycle. In addition, conversational data will be analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively as part of the reflection and revision process to inform the subsequent design cycles. This project plans for three rounds of design cycles, resulting in various studies spreading outcomes and conclusions. The results of the first study describing the entire first design cycle are expected to be submitted for publication before the end of 2022. Conclusions: CAs constitute an innovative way of delivering health communication information. However, they are primarily used to contribute to behavioral change or educate people about health issues. Therefore, health chatbots’ impact should be carefully designed to meet outcomes. DBR can help shape a holistic understanding of the process of CA conception. This protocol describes the design of VWise, a contextual CA that aims to address vaccine hesitancy using the DBR methodology. The results of this study will help identify the strengths and flaws of DBR’s application to such innovative projects.