Clinicians, Industry Leaders share latest insights on mental health and AI

In May, we recognize Mental Health awareness throughout the United States. Mental health has reached epidemic proportions with nearly one in five U.S. adults living with a mental illness and the rate of youth experiencing a mental health condition continuing to rise. In this update, we showcase the recent World Medical Innovation Forum where we discussed mental health and AI applications as well as new Q&A from industry and licensing perspectives. Watch for regular updates with more “AI insights” coming soon.


2019 WMIF | Mental Health, Smartphone Apps and the Promise of AI

Patients can face significant barriers when it comes to accessing high-quality, evidence-based treatment for mental illness. AI-enabled technologies, including smartphone-based tools, that may help close this treatment gap for patients worldwide. This session will focus on efforts to develop smartphone apps and other tools, including those designed to help predict patients’ moods and provide cognitive behavioral therapy.


Q&A with Emilie Braun, PharmD, Associate Director, Licensing, Innovation, PHS

  1. Please describe some of your work with the psychiatric research teams at Partners.
    • One example is working with Sabine Wilhelm, PhD and her team from MGH who is developing along with a collaborator digital cognitive behavioral therapy apps to treat a whole range of psychiatric disorders. The first application is for BDD (body dysmorphic disorders) and there are more applications to come.
  2. How is this technology transformative?
    • The team is tackling issues that are related to limited access to treatment for psychiatric disorders. Mental health and psychotherapy are stigmatized in our society and having a mobile app that helps you go through treatment without having to go to the doctor is a way to destigmatize the approach. Another reason is that a lot of patients have logistic and economic barriers to treatments; either it’s too expensive or transportation is an issue. The team is tackling these barriers by finding a more accessible way to get to the patient. The BDD app is showing real efficacy for improving patient health and care.
  3. What’s most exciting about your role in helping the team move through the phases of commercializing their research?
    • Supporting the researchers in making an impact not only for patients in the Partners system but across the U.S. and probably worldwide is a very exciting part of my role. By working with a commercial partner for development, scale and dissemination, it’s very exciting to see the research come to life.  We are often working on early stage technologies for which the impact to patients can be 10+ years down the road. Here, the timeframe to benefit the patients is much shorter, which makes the project very concrete and exciting.
  4. What do you like best about your role?
    • Being able to work with a research team who is passionate and dedicated to providing a solution to patients is very inspiring. I also like my role of working with a commercial partner, aligning on the future trajectory of the product and translating this vision into agreements that set the stage for the future relationship and success of the product. I see a lot of team effort behind this project from the research team to the business and legal sides.

D12 Topic: Narrowing the Gaps in Mental HealthCare

In the U.S., mental illness has reached epidemic proportions; nearly one in five adults grapples with a mental disorder, and opioid addiction and misuse claim the lives of more than 130 adults every day. Promising innovation is being seen in the integration of rigorously validated mental health methods into smartphone apps. One AI app under development is for patients with opioid, alcohol, and other forms of drug addiction with co-occurring mental illness. The app provides patients with a virtual form of integrated group therapy (IGT), a highly effective treatment that teaches behaviors and skills to manage recovery and prevent relapse.


Industry Insights from Christopher Molaro, CEO, NeuroFlow

  • NeuroFlow Stats
  • 16,000+ number of patient journals and questionnaires composed on NeuroFlow
  • 139,000+ number of moods logged in NeuroFlow

Q. What’s NeuroFlow’s mission and what makes you personally passionate about it?

  • NeuroFlow wants to bridge mental and physical health through collaborative care. Collaborative care, where both physical and mental issues are addressed, leads to better outcomes. Using data analytics, we can promote mental health in primary care settings, bringing it out of the shadows – that’s the basis of NeuroFlow.
  • It was my personal honor to serve in the U.S. Army as an officer and lead a platoon of soldiers in combat. Yet I felt my biggest leadership failure is having missed one of my soldier’s needs for mental health care when he wasn’t engaging with his therapy and appointment referrals, and despite new ways to access care, his primary care doctor did not follow up and conduct measurement-based care as related to his mental health. As a result, he became a statistic and fell through the cracks in an arguably avoidable situation if we knew and could have intervened. realized that there were a ton of resources available to make sure soldiers were ready for combat, but mental health resources were not being effectively deployed. 50-60 percent of patients referred to behavioral health specialists never go the first appointment. Technology and data analytics can bridge this gap to help them get the care they need.

Q. How does NeuroFlow impact patient care?

  • NeuroFlow has two platforms, IntegrateHealth (for health systems and providers) and Empower (for health plans) – both have a patient facing app component. The two primary product lines help promote collaborative care and more effective holistic treatment, reducing costs of care and improving outcomes. We efficiently provide longitudinal tracking and measurement-based outcomes using validated assessments.
  • IntegrateHealth more effectively coordinates care in physical health settings (PCP, Pain, OBGYN, etc) of the highest risk patients with behavioral health reducing ED visits, in-patient stays and overall cost of care.
    Our Empower platform is a self-service tool for your membership population that allows them to engage with behavioral health resources providing more efficient access and engagement, all with evidence-based protocols, and automates patient population risk stratification and gets them the right care in a timely manner.
  • Within the first year of NeuroFlow, we have 75% engagement, with 12 activities being completed per patient in a given month.

Q. What do you envision for mental health in the future?

  • There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. We are taking best practices and evidence-proven knowledge and creating ways for people to engage, giving it a vehicle to make it applicable and approachable for patients. It’s a practical solution to create a support structure for those who need it most. Mental health is being made a priority and it’s important to be part of this conversation. As we collect more data and start to understand how depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders affect the overall health, outcomes and cost of care, we will be able to build more complex AI algorithms to proactively identify trends and issues, intervening with precise and evidence-based recommendations.

Sabine Wilhelm, PhD discussing mobile apps in the healthcare setting

Sabine Wilhelm, PhD, Chief of Psychology; Director, OCD and Related Disorders Program, MGH; Professor, Psychology, HMS discusses how mobile apps will be used in the clinical setting and barriers they face at the World Medical Innovation Forum