Impact Series

As psychological well being wants surge, this Seattle startup presents AI-powered evaluation of remedy periods

Mental health tech startup Lyssn is launching its telehealth platform this week. (Lyssn Image)

The novel coronavirus has brought with it fears of infection, massive job losses, the challenges of teaching kids at home, social isolation, and the list goes on. The toll on our collective mental health is massive.

“We know that stress and anxiety and depression are increasing,” said Dave Atkins. “The need for high-quality mental healthcare is probably higher now than any point in our recent memory.”

Atkins is the CEO and co-founder of a company that’s hoping to help. Seattle-based Lyssn (pronounced “listen”) uses AI and machine learning to transcribe therapist-patient conversations into text and analyzes the interactions to determine if providers are using evidence-based, best practices in their treatment.

Today the startup announced the release of a new telehealth platform that uses Lyssn’s own secure video-conferencing system to provide remote mental healthcare.

Lyssn CEO Dave Atkins. (Lyssn Photo)

The service works something like personal assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Cortana, listening to conversations and making sense of them.

“Instead of trying to find directions to a restaurant or play a song, you are asking, ‘How empathic is this therapist in the session, and how many questions did they ask and what type of questions?’” said Atkins, who is also a research professor at the University of Washington.

The project got its start in 2008 at multiple universities, supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health. Over many years, the researchers developed measures for evaluating mental health sessions, and using thousands of hours of recordings of treatments, they trained their AI-powered system to perform the otherwise laborious, time consuming evaluation of the interactions.

In 2017, the team officially launched Lyssn. In addition to Atkins, the other four co-founders include University of Utah professors Mike Tanana, chief technology officer, and Zac Imel, chief psychotherapy science officer, as well as Tad Hirsch, chief design officer and Northeastern University professor, and Shrikanth Narayanan, chief engineering science officer and University of Southern California professor. The UW innovation hub CoMotion helped with the launch.

Lyssn’s cloud-based system provides an overall evaluation of a session, and lets users locate specific moments to revisit. The software is able to determine if the therapist is empathetic, detecting changes in vocal pitch and identifying phrases where the therapist shares their understanding of what a patient has said.

The startup has a dozen customers, primarily university programs that train counselors and therapists. Atkins said it’s the only company he knows of that is transcribing and using AI to analyze therapy sessions.

An example of a Lyssn-generated report analyzing a patient-therapist session. (Lyssn Image)

Lyssn currently is focused on evaluating two common approaches to mental health treatment: motivational interviewing, which was initially developed to treat alcohol and drug abuse, and has expanded to aid people with diabetes or seeking other lifestyle changes; and cognitive behavioral therapy, which traditionally was used in cases of depression and anxiety, but can treat other diagnoses as well.

Evergreen Treatment Services, a Puget Sound-area opioid treatment program, is one of Lyssn’s customers. The nonprofit is publicly funded and many of its patients are experiencing homelessness and other difficulties. The clinic initially used the platform in a pilot project to test its usefulness, and now deploys Lyssn for training and to give feedback to counselors and their supervisors.

Counselors are often anxious about recording sessions and having others — or even themselves — listen to them, said Michelle Peavy, a clinical psychologist and research consultant with Evergreen Treatment Services.

“I really feel like Lyssn is there to support the counseling staff or treatment staff,” she said. “It’s not meant to be a ‘Big Brother’ punitive thing.”

The recorded, analyzed sessions can be a useful jumping off point for supervisors to work with counselors, Peavy said, and provide a “more objective evaluation” of performance.

The clinic is trying out Lyssn’s new telehealth capabilities in the hope of better connecting to clients.

“Like everyone, we were caught off guard by the pandemic and kind of scrambling,” Peavy said. One of the hurdles for her organization is the fact that many patients are unsheltered and without regular online access. That said, they’re eager to try telehealth.

“For people for whom this works,” she said, “it’s going to be awesome.”

And while the technology sector continues developing digital mental health tools including apps and automated, avatar therapy, Atkins and his group are interested in helping live providers offer the best care possible.

“We need all the tools we can get,” Atkins said. “At Lyssn, we are committed to the fact that there is something unique about humans helping humans.”

Related Articles

Trả lời

Email của bạn sẽ không được hiển thị công khai. Các trường bắt buộc được đánh dấu *