Providing Emotional Support (ES) to soothe people in emotional distress is an essential capability in social interactions. Most existing researches on building ES conversation systems only considered single-turn interactions with users, which was over-simplified. In comparison, multi-turn ES conversation systems can provide ES more effectively, but face several new technical challenges, including: (1) how to adopt appropriate support strategies to achieve the long-term dialogue goal of comforting the user's emotion; (2) how to dynamically model the user's state. In this paper, we propose a novel system MultiESC to address these issues. For strategy planning, drawing inspiration from the A* search algorithm, we propose lookahead heuristics to estimate the future user feedback after using particular strategies, which helps to select strategies that can lead to the best long-term effects. For user state modeling, MultiESC focuses on capturing users' subtle emotional expressions and understanding their emotion causes. Extensive experiments show that MultiESC significantly outperforms competitive baselines in both dialogue generation and strategy planning. Our codes are available at https://github.com/lwgkzl/MultiESC.
With the rise of telemedicine, the task of developing Dialogue Systems for Medical Diagnosis (DSMD) has received much attention in recent years. Different from early researches that needed to rely on extra human resources and expertise to help construct the system, recent researches focused on how to build DSMD in a purely data-driven manner. However, the previous data-driven DSMD methods largely overlooked the system interpretability, which is critical for a medical application, and they also suffered from the data sparsity issue at the same time. In this paper, we explore how to bring interpretability to data-driven DSMD. Specifically, we propose a more interpretable decision process to implement the dialogue manager of DSMD by reasonably mimicking real doctors' inquiry logics, and we devise a model with highly transparent components to conduct the inference. Moreover, we collect a new DSMD dataset, which has a much larger scale, more diverse patterns and is of higher quality than the existing ones. The experiments show that our method obtains 7.7%, 10.0%, 3.0% absolute improvement in diagnosis accuracy respectively on three datasets, demonstrating the effectiveness of its rational decision process and model design. Our codes and the GMD-12 dataset are available at https://github.com/lwgkzl/BR-Agent.
Developing conversational agents to interact with patients and provide primary clinical advice has attracted increasing attention due to its huge application potential, especially in the time of COVID-19 Pandemic. However, the training of end-to-end neural-based medical dialogue system is restricted by an insufficient quantity of medical dialogue corpus. In this work, we make the first attempt to build and release a large-scale high-quality Medical Dialogue dataset related to 12 types of common Gastrointestinal diseases named MedDG, with more than 17K conversations collected from the online health consultation community. Five different categories of entities, including diseases, symptoms, attributes, tests, and medicines, are annotated in each conversation of MedDG as additional labels. To push forward the future research on building expert-sensitive medical dialogue system, we proposes two kinds of medical dialogue tasks based on MedDG dataset. One is the next entity prediction and the other is the doctor response generation. To acquire a clear comprehension on these two medical dialogue tasks, we implement several state-of-the-art benchmarks, as well as design two dialogue models with a further consideration on the predicted entities. Experimental results show that the pre-train language models and other baselines struggle on both tasks with poor performance in our dataset, and the response quality can be enhanced with the help of auxiliary entity information. From human evaluation, the simple retrieval model outperforms several state-of-the-art generative models, indicating that there still remains a large room for improvement on generating medically meaningful responses.