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Background: In clinical diagnostic interviews, mental health professionals (MHPs) implement a care practice that involves asking open questions (eg, “What do you want from your life?” “What have you tried before to bring change in your life?”) while listening empathetically to patients. During these interviews, MHPs attempted to build a trusting human-centered relationship while collecting data necessary for professional medical and psychiatric care. Often, because of the social stigma of mental health disorders, patient discomfort in discussing their presenting problem may add additional complexities and nuances to the language they use, that is, hidden signals among noisy content. Therefore, a focused, well-formed, and elaborative summary of clinical interviews is critical to MHPs in making informed decisions by enabling a more profound exploration of a patient’s behavior, especially when it endangers life.

Objective: The aim of this study is to propose an unsupervised, knowledge-infused abstractive summarization (KiAS) approach that generates summaries to enable MHPs to perform a well-informed follow-up with patients to improve the existing summarization methods built on frequency heuristics by creating more informative summaries.

Methods: Our approach incorporated domain knowledge from the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 lexicon into an integer linear programming framework that optimizes linguistic quality and informativeness. We used 3 baseline approaches: extractive summarization using the SumBasic algorithm, abstractive summarization using integer linear programming without the infusion of knowledge, and abstraction over extractive summarization to evaluate the performance of KiAS. The capability of KiAS on the Distress Analysis Interview Corpus-Wizard of Oz data set was demonstrated through interpretable qualitative and quantitative evaluations.

Results: KiAS generates summaries (7 sentences on average) that capture informative questions and responses exchanged during long (58 sentences on average), ambiguous, and sparse clinical diagnostic interviews. The summaries generated using KiAS improved upon the 3 baselines by 23.3%, 4.4%, 2.5%, and 2.2% for thematic overlap, Flesch Reading Ease, contextual similarity, and Jensen Shannon divergence, respectively. On the Recall-Oriented Understudy for Gisting Evaluation-2 and Recall-Oriented Understudy for Gisting Evaluation-L metrics, KiAS showed an improvement of 61% and 49%, respectively. We validated the quality of the generated summaries through visual inspection and substantial interrater agreement from MHPs.

Conclusions: Our collaborator MHPs observed the potential utility and significant impact of KiAS in leveraging valuable but voluminous communications that take place outside of normally scheduled clinical appointments. This study shows promise in generating semantically relevant summaries that will help MHPs make informed decisions about patient status.

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©Gaur Manas, Vamsi Aribandi, Ugur Kursuncu, Amanuel Alambo, Valerie L Shalin, Krishnaprasad Thirunarayan, Jonathan Beich, Meera Narasimhan, Amit Sheth. Originally published in JMIR Mental Health, 10.05.2021.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Mental Health, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

APA Citation

Manas, G., Aribandi, V., Kursuncu, U., Alambo, A., Shalin, V. L., Thirunarayan, K., Beich, J., Narasimhan, M., & Sheth, A. (2021). Knowledge-Infused Abstractive Summarization of Clinical Diagnostic Interviews: Framework Development Study. JMIR Mental Health, 8(5), e20865.