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Currently submitted to: Journal of Medical Internet Research

Date Submitted: May 13, 2019
Open Peer Review Period: May 13, 2019 - May 21, 2019
(currently open for review)

Conversational Interfaces for Health – A Bibliometric analysis of Grants, Publications, and Patents

  • Zhaopeng Xing; 
  • Fei Yu; 
  • Jian Du; 
  • Jennifer Walker; 
  • Claire Paulson; 
  • Nandita Mani; 
  • Lixin Song



Conversational interfaces (CIs) have been developed for health care purposes, such as health behavioral intervention, patient self-management, and clinical decision support. Despite growing research evidence supporting CIs’ potential, CI-related research is still in its infancy. There is lack of systematic investigation that goes beyond publication review and which presents the state of the art from perspectives of funding agencies, academia, and industry by incorporating CI-related public funding and patent activities.


This study aimed to use data systematically extracted from multiple sources (i.e., grant, publication, and patent databases) to investigate the development and research of health CIs and associated major stakeholders (i.e., countries, organizations, and collaborators).


A multifaceted search query was executed to retrieve records from nine databases. Bibliometrics, social network analysis (SNA), and term co-occurrence analysis were utilized to analyze screened records. Screening was conducted on records and resulted in inclusion of 428 research publications, 162 patents, and 42 grant-funded projects.


The total dollar amount of grants awarded for 42 projects was $30,297,932, among which $13,513,473 was awarded by U.S. funding agencies and $16,784,459 by the Europe Commission. The top three funding agencies in the U.S. were NSF, NIH, and AHRQ. Boston Medical Center was awarded the largest combined grant size ($2,246,437) for four projects. Researchers from 58 countries and 566 organizations contributed to 428 publications. U.S. researchers produced 114 publications, with the top three productive organizations being Northeastern University (US), University Teknologi MARA (Malaysia), and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). Eighty-two percent of the organizations engaged in inter-organizational collaboration and two organizational research-collaboration clusters were observed with Northeastern University and CNRs as the central nodes. About 112 organizations in the U.S. and China filed 87.7% of the 162 included patents. IBM filed the most patents which was 17. Only five organizational co-assigned patents were identified, and this study did not find any cross-country patent collaborations. Key terms including "patient" and "robot" were frequently occurring terms in all three examined data types. Autism spectrum disorder was the mostly addressed key term concerning a health issue. The "child" and "elderly" were two major user-related terms frequently addressed in CIs' healthcare applications.


Our findings provided an overview of the countries, organizations, and topics in funding activities, as well as the authorship, collaboration, content and related information of research publications and patents. The present study disclosed the lack of broad cross-sector partnership among grant agencies, industry, and academia particularly in the U.S. It also calls for public-private-hospital collaboration in research and patent activities.


Please cite as:

Xing Z, Yu F, Du J, Walker J, Paulson C, Mani N, Song L

Conversational Interfaces for Health – A Bibliometric analysis of Grants, Publications, and Patents

JMIR Preprints. 13/05/2019:14672

DOI: 10.2196/preprints.14672


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