NHS patients are now receiving mental health treatment recommendations from an AI chatbot – but those behind the technology insist they are “streamlining” services and not trying to replace therapists.
LimbicAn AI-powered “clinical assessment chatbot” has referred more than 150,000 people in England to the treatment they need, according to the NHS.
Those behind the technology claim it can predict eight mental disorders with 93 percent accuracy.
According to Limbic, the AI chatbot currently works with 30 percent of NHS “talking therapy” services in England, used by people with anxiety and depression.
Josh Cable-May, cognitive behavioral therapy specialist at Limbic, insists they are not trying to replace human therapists – the aim is to improve efficiency.
NHS Bradford District and Craven is one of the services that use Limbic on their website
The AI uses questionnaires to suggest the user’s likely medical conditions to the NHS
According to Limbic, the AI chatbot currently works with 30 percent of NHS “talking therapy” services in England, used by people with anxiety and depression (stock image).
In 2021, the government announced a £36m grant for AI technologies to revolutionize NHS care – and Limbic became the first mental health chatbot to achieve UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) medical device certification .
But in May the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence fast-tracked approval for nine mental health apps to be offered within the NHS for people with anxiety and depression.
Some are already in circulation, like Limbic, however Six of the apps/programs should only be used with the support of an intensive care therapist.
They are intended for people with disorders such as body dysmorphic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder.
The chatbot asks users screening questions that are typically asked during a phone call before a referral – many people with anxiety or related disorders find phone calls daunting and the AI is designed to overcome this barrier.
Once the user answers all questions, all data is attached to a referral record to assist a doctor in providing the correct clinical assessment.
However, some doctors are concerned about what the use of chatbots in the NHS means for them.
In a post on of people.” .
“Robots/AI/groundbreaking research means nothing without primary care physicians, safe emergency care, beds and staff.”
Another user said: “I worked in the NHS.” They can’t even get their current IT systems to work, connect and manage assets.
“Different systems across trusts and multiple disconnected systems within each trust.” The pay is poor and they lack skills and innovation. They have no chance with AI.”
But those behind the technology say they’re just trying to buy doctor time and help people take the first step toward therapy.
The Limbic website states: “Replacement is not the solution, but rather the ease of the therapist’s life.”
Mr Cable-May told the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy: “We are lowering the barrier to accessing services, which has also led to increased access for underserved populations.”
“Around 40 percent of our referrals come outside of normal office hours, which shows how helpful it is to have a tool available 24/7.” It’s a very effective digital front door.
“We’re not trying to replace therapists.
“We still need a human in the mix and that’s why we are still embedded in a care ecosystem.” Anyone who accesses the NHS talking therapies with Limbic Access will be assessed by a human and proceed with a human therapist .
“But reducing the administrative burden creates relief.” [practitioners] to carry out the actual therapy, which can help shorten waiting lists.”
An audit of the technology used by Limbic found that patients who used it experienced 45 percent less treatment change due to the greater accuracy.
The chatbot saves answers to the questionnaire in a data profile for practitioners
It was also found that patients were seen 12 minutes faster, resulting in an 18 percent reduction in treatment abandonments and a five percent reduction in waiting time.
Limbic says their chatbot has saved more than 30,000 NHS services in England since its launch, at a time when doctors are massively overworked.
A Investigating this AI self-referral tool in the NHS found Limbic to be particularly effective for minority groups, although it is currently in pre-print phase and awaiting full peer review.
Research conducted by Limbic staff found a 235 percent increase in non-binary people being referred, a 30 percent increase in bisexual people and a 31 percent increase in those from ethnic minorities.
Dr. Ross Harper, co-founder and CEO of Limbic, said in a press release: “This is a milestone for mental health care as it is strong evidence that our psychological assessment software – the first in the world to achieve this level of certification a safe and clinically effective way to improve the therapeutic process in mental health services at a time when such support has never been more needed.
“Limbic Access reduces the workload for IAPT services by collecting information through a friendly, supportive chatbot conversation and leveraging its machine learning capabilities to perform effective triage.”
“The result is that doctors are better informed before appointments and can focus more on the patient; The services require less administration and patients benefit from shorter waiting times and faster recovery. It’s a win-win-win situation.
Earlier this year, mental health charity Mind revealed the public’s loss of trust in mental health care. A YouGov poll found that more than one in three British adults (35 percent) say they do not trust that a loved one would be safe if they needed mental health care in hospital.
This is part of an ongoing “crisis” in mental health care in the UK.
The NHS Confederation says neglect of mental health services is leaving some patients waiting in emergency departments for up to 80 hours.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said in a press release: “The current focus on restoring elective duty, industrial action and access to GPs has resulted in mental health slipping back in the government’s priorities and patients and services being forgotten .”
“This is a national emergency that is now having serious consequences everywhere, not least for patients in crisis.”
“We know that demand for mental health support is increasing, but with supply limited in the community, this demand is washed up onto the shores of wider NHS services and has a knock-on effect on the care of other patients, waiting times etc Recovery efforts.’
AI chatbots aren’t the only technology the NHS is using to ease the burden on its overworked staff.
Earlier this year, a trial at Milton Keynes University Hospital used a self-driving “helper bot” called Milton to transport medication around the building.