As awareness increases and stigma decreases, more people in need are seeking behavioral health services. At the same time, the number of behavioral health clinicians and other resources have not been keeping up with demand. Many areas of the country, especially rural locations, continue to be underserved.
The healthcare industry has been leveraging newer technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, to help streamline many tasks. AI has been used to manage and analyze large numbers of patient data, or help providers take notes with speech recognition capabilities.
So could AI also be used to supplement behavioral health services?
Using artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare
We’ve previously talked about AI on the BestNotes blog. This term usually applies to computers and software that can imitate the “intelligent” functions of humans, such as learning and problem solving.
When used in healthcare, AI often helps analyze large amounts of complicated data to help with predictions and diagnostics. It is also used with virtual assistants (VAs) that understand voice commands and even “learn” the user’s habits or preferences.
Using AI in behavioral health and addiction treatment
Despite the personal nature of behavioral health, it has not been immune to digitization. In recent years, funding for mental health tech startups has grown from nearly $100 million in 2014 to more than $500 million in 2018.
As AI technology advances, researchers are finding more ways to apply it within the healthcare industry. Researchers with the World Well-Being Project wrote in the journal PNAS how they incorporated language from the Facebook posts of consenting individuals to create an AI algorithm. This algorithm accurately predicted depression recorded in electronic health records.
AI may even help supplement the “soft skills” of communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution that are vital for behavioral health. At the University of Waterloo in Ontario, computer scientists developed a new method for VAs that could be used to help people with mental illness. SMERTI (pronounced “Smarty”) takes a text response from a VA and adjusts its “personality” so that it uses natural language and emotional cues based on the relationship and situations involved. This allows the technology to better “connect” with users.
This follows the general trend of a growing number of Americans using technology to influence their health decisions. That also includes increasing popularity for virtual therapy options, which include chatbots, text-based messaging, and video counseling sessions.
By creating technology that responds to users’ needs with more emotional intelligence, researchers and developers may make behavioral health solutions more accessible. While this tech may not be a fully adequate substitute for working directly, in person with a behavioral health clinician, it may still help reduce the burden for providers and improve patient outcomes.
Stay up-to-date with your behavioral health EHR
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