Original article was published by vrtumind on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
Hello World, Your Next Therapist Is a Robot
Artificial intelligence (AI) has come a long way in the past years. When we think about robots, it is no longer a distant fantasy but rather present in our lives. In July 2018, Incheon International Airport in Korea introduced AIRSTAR, a passenger aiding robot. AIRSTAR can help passengers check-in, guide them when they need directions and more. The robot is even smart enough that it stops to wait when it outpaces individuals it is leading. Robots can eliminate the need for human workers, freeing up people to do more important things. So what if we used AI in mental healthcare?
AI provides a lot of opportunities to fix shortages in places of need such as developing countries that don’t have mental health resources. Other areas of need include underfunded K-12 and higher education that also lack mental health resources. Of course, robots have not reached the point where they can truly replace a human therapist. The ability to empathize and form a human connection is something that cannot yet be replicated by a machine. However, robots can offer general information and advice on mental health to people. Even though the information isn’t individual-specific, it can go a long way to educate individuals about mental health.
AI in mental health can also help improve the accuracy and efficiency of treatment and management. Since robots are data-driven, anything in mental healthcare that relates to data, such as the prescription of medicine by psychiatrists, can be vastly improved. As it currently stands, psychiatrists prescribe medication based on their experience and knowledge. There is no reason why a robot cannot learn all the data about certain medications and deliver a diagnosis. In fact, they will probably be more accurate and efficient than human psychiatrists because they can analyze huge amounts of data that humans can’t.
Another benefit of implementing AI in mental health is that it can significantly reduce treatment costs. Administrative duties suck up time and money, increasing costs, and leaving less time for actual treatment. Robots can take over the administrative duties, freeing up therapists to do more counseling. Further, robots can integrate information such as medical records which can help psychiatrists be more efficient. Some estimate that this could cut treatment costs by half! AI can also be used as a preliminary screen before committing to therapy. The idea is that AI can test whether or not a person needs therapy and therefore, reduce wait times and insurance problems. This is another way that AI can streamline the mental health process, making it easier and cheaper to get help.
In conclusion, having AI in mental health has a lot of potential benefits. They can fix shortages in places of need, improve the efficiency of treatment, reduce treatment costs, and can streamline the overall process. Robots can’t truly replace human therapists but they can do a lot to help them. And who knows, maybe one day, your therapist will be a robot.