News & articles > Adopting Augmented Intelligence for Behavioral Health: A Clinician’s Take

Adopting Augmented Intelligence for Behavioral Health: A Clinician’s Take

By Megan Cornish, LICSW

Category:  Blog posts
Category:  Blog posts

Eleos Health offers an AI-driven assistant for every behavioral health provider

At home, I depend heavily on technology. My Amazon echo devices have helped me order last-minute birthday gifts, turn off my lights for movies, phone the pediatrician, and, most recently, pull off an incredible Thanksgiving dinner for my in-laws.

However, I’ve been skeptical about introducing technology like this into the most sacred of places: the therapy room.

Despite the influx of apps and devices that offer mental health support, we, as mental health professionals, know that technology cannot replace human connection and empathy.

But as I watched Eleos’ December Webinar, “A Frontline Story on Adopting Augmented Intelligence for Behavioral Health,” I wondered if we underestimate how much it could free us up to focus on that very connection.

And as payers seek more data to justify spending, the technology might be just the break behavioral health providers need.

ABCs of Artificial Intelligence in Behavioral Health

To begin, Dr. Dennis Morrison, clinical strategist at Eleos Health, explained the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence and how it has already been integrated into our lives.

Artificial intelligence is really permeating all of our lives in ways that you may not have thought about. Anytime you use Siri, and you ask for directions, or if you use Alexa to play music, or if you look up directions on Google… those are not just minor simple algorithms. These are pretty complex algorithms that are running in the background.”

So we’re already using artificial intelligence to support almost every aspect of our lives. Although, according to Dr. Morrison, the term “artificial intelligence” may have too many science fiction connotations to take seriously- so the American Medical Association prefers another term when referring to this type of healthcare technology.

“The American Medical Association has recommended that we substitute the term “augmented intelligence,” because these tools that are being used in healthcare are really just meant to provide information to a clinician to make better decisions about the care they’re providing… I like to think of them as decision support tools on steroids.”

Dr. Morrison answered one of the biggest questions head-on: is this technology going to replace therapists?

The truth is, that’s actually not the case. The things that some of you may have seen with the use of mobile technologies that will allow end users to be able to access some form of healthcare- the data is not good on those. They do not replace clinicians, and frankly, they ought to be used as an augmentation to clinicians if they’re gonna be used at all. But what we do know is that if you don’t use these things, you’re gonna have a harder time going forward in the future, than those who do not.”

Gaudenzia’s Story

If you haven’t heard of Gaudenzia, they’re one of the largest nonprofit drug and alcohol treatment and recovery centers in the United States. They run 117 programs for men and women, serving over 19,000 clients a year- and they were ready to make augmented intelligence work for them.

There’s a tremendous amount of effort that goes into rendering the services- staffing the programs, retention, hiring- on a day-to-day basis,” Andrew Schmitt, LCSW, director of Guadenzia’s outpatient services, shared. “And I think any drug and alcohol provider would argue that there is a tremendous amount of documentation, regulatory standards, and compliance needs. It really becomes a challenge to find that balance- to be able to maintain that and really do what we seek to do as a clinician, which is to help a human being.”

Guadenzia came to Eleos for help with four main areas: documentation, evidence-based care, staffing, and training and supervision. 

Here’s how Eleos’ augmented intelligence helped them in each of these areas.

Documentation

Using Eleos to support clinician documentation reduced the median amount of time spent documenting sessions from ten minutes to 3.2 minutes.  By offering intelligent suggestions based on the content of the session, the software was able to reduce clinician time spent on documentation by almost two-thirds.

Evidence-Based Care

According to Guadenzia’s CEO, they’ve seen an increase in evidence-based techniques of about 35% over time. In a randomized controlled trial, clinicians who used Eleos were more effective in treating both anxiety and depression. This may be due to augmented intelligence helping clinicians notice themes they might not have picked up on. The software also listed interventions that were proven effective for the client’s presenting issues, and helped clinicians monitor those interventions over time.

Staffing

Most of Gaudenzia’s staff reported that Eleos was a stress-reliever for them- saving them time and mental energy when it came time for them to document sessions.

Training & Supervision

Supervisors and trainees used Eleos to help guide their conversations, while trainees could recall sessions and identify issues they needed help with.

Eleos Health CareOps Automation Demonstration

As impressive as Guadenzia’s results were, the demonstration of the Eleos software is where I really started to suspect if we’ve been sleeping on augmented intelligence in behavioral health.

I saw this technology:

  • Pull out “key moments” from the session- and give clinicians the option to put quotes from those moments into their notes. 
  • Make suggestions about topics covered throughout the session
  • Identify the interventions used by the clinician- such as “validation”. 
  • Notify clinician about themes- like anxiety and stress- by identifying words associated with them and the number of times they appeared.
  • Pull in other assessment tools- like the PHQ-9- to seamlessly integrate into notes.
  • Keep track of how much time the client spent talking (versus the clinician) and whether the client was coherent as they spoke.

Our days with back-to-back sessions often leave us wishing we could clone ourselves, so we could have another set of expert ears listen to our sessions, write notes, and pick up on client cues we missed. This software is possibly the closest alternative.

Lessening the Load on Providers

As the mental health crisis continues to rage, organizations must work to prove the value of their programs for grants and investors.  Consequently, clinicians are tasked with data collection, which is at best exhausting and at worst distracting.

So here’s my suggestion to organizations: 

If you want more data-based proof that evidence-based care is taking place, you must help shoulder the burden of gathering data.

Offering providers augmented intelligence tools is a tangible way to increase your evidence base without further exhausting your clinicians.

Further, it helps identify and quantify therapy themes that fatigued clinicians might miss, essentially serving as a therapy assistant.

As data becomes increasingly important to mental health payers, software like Eleos is taking the burden of data gathering off the shoulders of clinicians so that they can focus on what really works in therapy: relationships. 

You can check out the highlights from Gaudenzia’s story below or view the full replay here.

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