Like most industries, the world of healthcare, and especially mental healthcare, was affected greatly by the pandemic. Since people couldn’t leave their homes, they missed therapy appointments or weren’t able to socialize with their loved ones. The Trevor Project, an organization that works with LGBTQ+ teens that struggle with suicidal thoughts and depression, found that people needed a wider availability of digital mental health services during the pandemic. Through expanding mental health programs, psychiatrists also realized digital mental health research, by using artificial intelligence, could better personalize mental healthcare.
When talking with a patient, psychiatrists have to rely on the patient’s self-reported symptoms and medical history. This can cause problems because some patients can be dishonest or not forthcoming about what they’re really thinking or feeling. By using artificial intelligence, psychiatrists are able to better assess the heterogeneity of psychiatric conditions within their patients and get a clearer picture of how to treat them. The technology is able to sift through data including patient behaviors, medical, social, and family histories, as well as differing responses to prior treatments. All of this allows the psychiatrist the ability to better discern the best way to monitor and treat patients in a way that is personalized.
Dr. Charles Marmar, a Lucius N. Littauer psychiatry professor and Department of Psychiatry chair at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, has been working with his colleagues using machine learning, which is a form of artificial intelligence that uses computer algorithms to analyze large amounts of data. The more data they are able to obtain, the better and more accurate they can be in their analyzes. In a recent study, Marmar and researchers were able to detect two different forms of PTSD in veterans, where before it was believed there was only one. Other studies using artificial intelligence have found differing variations of depression in individuals.
While A.I. in mental healthcare is still a new thing, it seems it will only continue to expand. Psychiatrists are hopeful that A.I. will create more personalized care for each patient, an increased access for those struggling with mental health, and remove access challenges for marginalized groups. What researchers have found negative about artificial intelligence in the health field is that human-to-human connection is still vital to health and wellness. As seen during the pandemic, not being around others causes an extreme decline in mental health. Also, patient engagement is critical, and it’s difficult to enforce that when the control is all in the hands of the patient.