Recent years have seen rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), with AI programs, such as chatbots, becoming so advanced that they can often convincingly imitate human speech. How far can we take this technology? Does it have a future in more people-centric fields, such as behavioral health?
Supporters suggest that behavioral health can use AI in many ways. These include:
- Providing talk therapy through chatbots
- Identifying mental health risk factors in language and behaviors, such as analyzing social media posts for suicidal ideation
- Analyzing enormous amounts of data to identify the most promising medications and other treatments
There’s also the potential for AI to streamline tasks for behavioral health clinicians and support staff. For example, AI-based technology can help automate administrative tasks and transcribe clinical notes.
Although the principles of AI have existed for a while now, its practical use is still in its early stages. There are still plenty of challenges and uncertainties to sort out.
Challenges of behavioral health and AI
Behavioral health is a complex field with many ethical concerns. AI technologies, including language and chat-based programs, highly depend on the information that human users feed it.
Clinicians and other behavioral health experts must be sure that AI systems follow proper ethics and morality. The information that AI systems use, and how they use it, will require caution and scrutiny. AI software should adhere to the same ethical principles that behavioral health providers must follow, free of unintentional bias.
Because it is a relatively new technology, there is also a lack of standards for AI programs and their use in behavioral health. AI experts, researchers, clinicians, advocates, and industry groups will need to work together to develop appropriate standards. Software and devices also may need to be cleared by regulatory agencies such as the FDA.
In addition, researchers are not yet sure about the best way to use AI in behavioral health, or how effective it can be. So far, the study results have been mixed.
What does research show?
A 2021 study of the AI-based chatbot Woebot showed promise in using AI to help treat substance use disorders. Results suggested that the use of the application may help reduce substance use, plus improve depression and anxiety scores. Experts at Dartmouth have developed an AI model that can help detect mental disorders using online conversations, which may become a valuable preventative tool.
However, when it comes to mental health research, AI has plenty of shortcomings to address before it’s ready for prime time, according to a study published in JMIR Mental Health. A team of European researchers reviewed the use of AI applications in clinical trials of mental health conditions from 2016 to 2021. Their analysis found an uneven use of AI depending on the study, along with a risk of bias, lack of transparency, and methodological flaws that “delay the safe, practical implementation of AI.”
AI technology has enormous potential for improving the way clients receive behavioral health services. However, the technology calls for further research and discussion to better understand how AI can best be used for the benefit of behavioral health clients.
Whatever tools you use in your behavioral health and addiction treatment practice, they should make your life easier, not harder! BestNotes EHR behavioral health solutions help streamline your documentation and other tasks so you can spend more time focused on your client needs. Want to learn more? Request a demo today!