Why AI In Healthcare Is Critical To Improve Mental Health And Wellness
Last month, I wrote a Forbes article on Why AI and Healthcare will make our World Better, and it was so popular that I have continued this discourse. However in this article, I want to concentrate on Mental Health and Wellness and the value of AI approaches that can help in this growing segment.
First, how big is the mental health and wellness market segment focused on employee well being?
According to Allied Market Research, the global mental health market was valued at over $383 Billion in 2020, and is estimated to reach close tO $550B by 2030. This market segment is characterized by the absence of a positive emotion and having a low mood, and a range of associated cognitive, physical, emotions or behavioural symptoms. These conditions impact 1 out of every 5 individuals in an organization.
What is the leading mental health issue?
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is the major contributor to disease risks. What is most concerning is that depression and anxiety are on the rise. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that about 4% of the world’s population has depression. It’s interesting that the USA is also the most depressed country in the world.
Topping these realities is the Global Pandemic has triggered an increase of over 25% in the prevalence of depression and rising anxiety.
“The information we have now about the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO. “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.”
What are the signs of depression?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a major depressive episode as at least two weeks of a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities, as well as at least five other symptoms, such as:
- Sleep issues on an almost daily basis (either difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much)
- Changes in appetite and weight (change of more than 5% body weight in a month) or a decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day
- Decreased energy or fatigue almost every day
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and thinking clearly
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation that is observable by others (slow physical movements or unintentional or purposeless motions)
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide a suicide attempt, or a specific plan for suicide
Mental Health is a Boardroom Issue
WHO’s most recent Mental Health Report states that in 2020, governments worldwide spent on average just over 2% of their health budgets on mental health and many low-income countries reported having fewer than 1 mental health worker per 100,000 people.
Clearly this is insufficient.
With the Great Resignation underway across North America which started during COVID and has continued impacting the global supply chains and turning them upside down. Many of these employees are leaving not because of pay, or the company role per se, but many are leaving because of uncaring bosses which continues to be a major thorn in leadership. Unhappy people are 4x more apt to get depressed and finding ways to identify these risks early is a board room issue.
According to McKinsey research, two-fifths of people are unhappy at work and are considering leaving their job in the near future, according to a new survey by McKinsey. Many of these resources are also not returning to their industry so the havoc in operations in sourcing talent is causing considerable pain.
Hence board directors and all C-Levels need to think very hard about improving their focus on mental health and wellness. This is a serious issue which will require daily focus to stem the tides and avoid higher risks of hitting a tsunami.
Statistics show that workers are continuing to leave or at least considering leaving their jobs. More than 4 million people in the US quit their jobs in June. Over 11 million job vacancies remain unfilled, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are almost 900,000 unfilled job openings in Japan, with a jobs-to-applications ratio of 1.27. In the UK, there are more available job openings than unemployed people for the first time since records began. And in the EU, an average of almost 3% of jobs remain unfilled.
Value of AI Solutions to Support HealthCare Needs
(AI) is increasingly popular with patients in mental health care. AI can be used to not only detect depression risks, but also to treat depression with tools to manage depression symptoms by collecting feedback, providing personalized recommendations, delivering the right content, being a surrogate companion, and most importantly ensuring employee voices are being heard and that insights solve any systemic work conditions or leadership behavior issues.
Privacy and Access
An AI app can provide a safe place for an employee to share how they feel and be able to track their moods as an insight to living a healthier life. It can also provide recommendations on how to improve an organizational work practices and raise issues of abuse or inappropriate leadership, behaviours such as diversity and inclusiveness or sexual harassment. Operating in a secure environment AI can create a safe place to express feelings, or even vent and know that one is safe as data about your experiences can be 100% anonymous.
In addition, AI apps can be there for your employees day and night, 365 days of the year. Most mental health apps provide easy access also to resources anywhere supporting diverse resources: mobiles, laptops, etc. Complete convenience on your terms.
Insightful Mood Patterns
What AI can do is as the employee engages more in using the app, the AI models can learn more not about the user, but also all users and form statistical patterns on happiness risks, guiding management to predicting future risks or helping to mitigate more rapidly current risks. The more data that is aggregated privately can also form overlay patterns in areas like email science combined with natural language processing can be used to look at email or voice discourse over time, and analyze how language changes over time in how an employee or a team communicates, sending guidance to the individual employee to protect anonymity. It will be imperative for privacy that ensuring patterns are kept in check at 20 signals in a management team, so early patterns can be securely analyzed creating new conversations, advising employees of the health and wellness benefits that a company has, or planning an early intervention for a team communication.
No matter what the approach is taken with AI, underscoring anonymity and privacy must be carefully considered before selecting any AI software tool that is focused on health and wellness.
AI Content Relevancy
AI-based depression resources can be helpful also to management and to peers so feelings of fear, guilt, or shame don’t stop employees from having a conversation and supporting talent when in need. For example, if a mood AI app, sees that you are feeling sad for 7 days or more, the App can send some interesting resources to the end user, all without any one else knowing – other than the individual who may be in need. Aggregated insights can inform management of new resourcing requirements to support trends found in the data. Natural Language Processing (NLP) analyzing all verbatims can also be used to inform the creation of an AI content strategy.
Sense of Belonging with a Connection Pal
In today’s fast changing world, the ability to go to a private counsellor is increasingly more complex, and often engaging with an app which asks you questions on how you are feeling, and guides you to relevant content stimulating ideas that you can take private action on is a very cost effective alternative to private counsellors. Private apps can create a safe space to express emotions and discuss challenging situations.
Being able to forge a connection and feel listened to genuinely is part of the healing process in depression.
AI can also advise on what people to speak to when certain situations arise and source the relevant experts or content which they would not easily find in a large organization.
AI in healthcare will continue to create new solutions that are not only relevant, timely, private and secure, they will provide access to many under served populations who cannot access or afford counselling support services, hence, AI private software solutions with strong diagnostic and support systems to monitor mood and happiness will increasingly become as common as the office water cooler, or with today’s employees working at home, perhaps the ease of access to a fridge is a more fitting analogy.
What is clear is as board directors and C-suite leaders, it is imperative to understand that happiness is key and as depression and sadness is on the rise, new mental health and wellness toolkits will be needed and many of them will squarely focus on mood and many will be using innovative AI Methods for more robust and intelligent sense making.
My next blog will focus on AI Health Apps that are focused on mental health, mindfulness and can provide support for depression.