Is the answer to provider shortages humans or robots?​

Published on:
March 17, 2022

Is the answer to the mental health provider shortages more humans or robots?​ Perhaps a lil of both!

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a hot buzz word for years now, but things have really been picking up when it comes to AI specifically in behavioral health. Some companies are leveraging AI to evaluate the emotional state of an individual user and then automatically triaging them into the appropriate level of care, whether that be a lightweight self-guided solution or hands-on intervention with a professional. 

The team from Wysa, a popular app that uses AI to support mental health, shared insights on how they are helping users self-manage stressors by blending AI-guided listening with professional expert support. Read more about their approach and what’s on the horizon next at their startup: 

How can artificial intelligence aid the supply/demand issue in mental health?

Artificial intelligence provides a unique opportunity to provide support on an individual level by understanding the user and determining an appropriate intervention based on the user’s expressed needs. Wysa is the world’s leading AI-based digital companion for behavioral health. Wysa scales access to mental health support with 365/24/7, anonymous, quality care delivered via an easy-to-use app interface. Wysa supports the broad care spectrum; at a subclinical level Wysa bypasses the need for human intervention thereby reducing provider burden and ensuring immediate access to mental health support. For those at a clinical level, Wysa’s digital assessments and e-triaging ensure real-time escalation to the appropriate level of care, including access to Wysa licensed coaches and therapists, thereby improving provider productivity and reach.  

What would you share with someone who is unsure about the efficacy of AI/chatbots for mental health care? 

Wysa’s clinical efficacy has been measured in real-world studies, clinical trials and now, in RCTs. For the past three years, Wysa has consistently ranked as the highest-rated app on ORCHA (the digital health app rating agency in the UK), on the basis of an evaluation that examined - the evidence surrounding it, the quality of evidence-based content within the app, usability and accessibility scoring, and its capacity to protect the data of its users. In the review, Wysa’s compliance with ISO standards as well as DCB 0129 (NHS Clinical Risk Management Standards) were also noted. The techniques used within Wysa are based on proven evidence-based paradigms of psychology and mental health, such as cognitive-behavior therapy and mindfulness-based therapy. In an independent analysis, Dr. Wasil at Harvard University (2019) had examined all popular apps for anxiety and depression, and concluded that Wysa was the app with the highest number of evidence-based elements.  

In 2018, Inkster et al. (University of Cambridge) looked at the effect of Wysa on users with different degrees of engagement. They found that the high users of Wysa had significantly higher average improvement (mean 5.84 [SD 6.66]) compared with the low users group (mean 3.52 [SD 6.15]) on their depression and anxiety levels.

What's next for Wysa? Your website mentions solutions for healthcare and insurers. Can you tell us more?

This is a very exciting time for Wysa! In conjunction with psychologists around the world, we are creating dedicated new programs to serve individuals with specific concerns of worry, anxiety, depression, social phobia, substance use, and maternal health. We are also beginning to release a version of the app in Spanish. This year, Wysa is dedicated in its focus to curate specific and targeted interventions and increase access to mental health support globally. In an effort to make things easier, scalable, and more effective, we are also building out our new therapist companion which will greatly improve the in-person therapeutic experience based on insights gained from Wysa.

Wysa also currently has solutions for both health systems and insurers with a focus on both population and person-centered care. We've learned a lot in the past few years from our research about important use cases that could really move the needle in terms of things like chronic pain and adolescent care. We are excited to offer these solutions to our valued partners.

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