Microsoft is collaborating with SilverCloud Health, a digital therapeutics platform for mental and behavioral health, to improve mental health services using AI technology. This collaboration aims to jointly explore how AI can be used to enhance SilverCloud Health’s digital mental health platform and to deliver digital CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)-based programs, making treatment more accessible.
In tandem with this collaboration, researchers at Microsoft Research Cambridge are investigating probabilistic machine learning frameworks to understand and meet people’s individual needs effectively with online CBT. Microsoft expects this project to lead to interventions that increase the quality of care for people living with mental health difficulties.
Current in-person clinical treatments are often labor-intensive, not scalable, and expensive for clinical organizations, with overly long waiting times for giving patients access to the treatments they need. This increasing global burden of mental illness has made the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders a public health priority. This need to increase access to treatment services has led to the successful development of computerized psychotherapy interventions.
The majority of these interventions deliver CBT, an extensively validated, solution-based program frequently used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and stress.
CBT is a key approach used by clinicians to treat patients suffering from mental health issues. It is a therapy based on the concept that thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are interconnected and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap in a vicious cycle. CBT aims to help deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with current problems, rather than focusing on issues from the past.
Responding to the demand for effective and sustainable mental healthcare services, online-delivered psychotherapy interventions offer great potential for increased access to evidence-based care, cost reduction, and the provision of more tailored support.
SilverCloud Health is an online-supported, CBT-based platform employed by over 70 percent of NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services in the UK. It is an evidence-based, digital mental health platform that delivers digital CBT-based programs in combination with limited but regular contact from a trained human supporter. It is one of very few mental health services that has been deployed at scale in routine clinical care.
SilverCloud Health currently has the largest real-world patient user base of its kind globally. The platform offers more than 30 treatment programs to improve symptoms across the spectrum of well-being and mental health as well as to help determine the severity level of symptoms. The programs include sleep, resilience, depression, anxiety and chronic health conditions (such as diabetes).
Grounded in multi-disciplinary research, the companies are using machine learning and artificial intelligence to accelerate their understanding of personalizing mental health interventions. Leveraging several years of expertise in probabilistic machine learning and healthcare, the companies are seeing promising results from one area of study, which is looking at whether people express different types of behavioral patterns in how they engage with CBT in an online environment.
By developing a deeper understanding of different types of engagement behaviors, the view is that a probabilistic machine learning framework can help identify effective strategies. This would enable personalizing content or delivery of the CBT program to better meet each patients’ individual needs.