A conversational agent system for dietary supplements use

Esha Singh, Anu Bompelli, Ruyuan (Tricia) Wan, Jiang Bian, Serguei Pakhomov, Rui Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Dietary supplements (DS) have been widely used by consumers, but the information around the efficacy and safety of DS is disparate or incomplete, thus creating barriers for consumers to find information effectively. Conversational agent (CA) systems have been applied to healthcare domain, but there is no such system to answer consumers regarding DS use, although widespread use of DS. In this study, we develop the first CA system for DS use. Methods: Our CA system for DS use developed on the MindMeld framework, consists of three components: question understanding, DS knowledge base, and answer generation. We collected and annotated 1509 questions to develop a natural language understanding module (e.g., question type classifier, named entity recognizer) which was then integrated into MindMeld framework. CA then queries the DS knowledge base (i.e., iDISK) and generates answers using rule-based slot filling techniques. We evaluated the algorithms of each component and the CA system as a whole. Results: CNN is the best question classifier with an F1 score of 0.81, and CRF is the best named entity recognizer with an F1 score of 0.87. The system achieves an overall accuracy of 81% and an average score of 1.82 with succ@3 + score of 76.2% and succ@2 + of 66% approximately. Conclusion: This study develops the first CA system for DS use using the MindMeld framework and iDISK domain knowledge base.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number153
JournalBMC medical informatics and decision making
Issue numberSuppl 1
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
National Institutions of Health’s National Center for Complementary Integrative Health (NCCIH), the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and National Institute on Aging (NIA) grant number R01AT009457 (PI: Zhang). The funding body support the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript. Publication costs are funded by the above grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Conversational agent
  • Deep learning
  • Dietary supplements
  • Named entity recognition
  • Natural language processing
  • Question answering


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