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Is Online Mental Health Treatment Effective?

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

Source - GHP news

During the ongoing pandemic, the role of technology in our lives has exceeded everyone's expectations. Entrepreneurs have ambitious dreams, technical insights, and, most importantly, a sense of daring that the stuffy corporate world of making quarterly predictions and saying politically correct things to bosses and underlings is fascinating.

However, there is a sizable proportion of overconfident entrepreneurs (and the investors who back them) who believe that chasing Moby Dick is as simple as going out to buy tartar sauce for a seafood meal that they are certain will follow the chase. Such arrogance has a predictable outcome. The entrepreneur and investor are beached, while the whale, which appears to be a big and easy target, slips away into the deep.

The covid pandemic has altered the prism of technology investing in such a way that it now appears to show far more colors than it does normally—that is, the seven colors of a rainbow that comprise the basic spectrum of white light. The investment world, both in public and private markets, now seems to assume that applying technology to an issue will provide a solution that seemed difficult to find only a few months ago.

This is particularly true for telemedicine start-ups. Medical payers, insurers, and device manufacturers have long sought to use telemedicine to maximize income and deliver coverage to patients in remote areas where physicians were not readily available. Despite the prevalence of the internet, online video conferencing sites, and advanced peripheral' smart' devices in patients' homes, telemedicine never really took off prior to the pandemic. This is due to the fact that physical contact between doctors and patients is an essential part of the healing process. Of course, medical interventions such as vaccines and operations must be conducted on patients, yet recovery is a holistic method also when it comes to daily consultation. It cannot be automated.

Fox, a professor in the department of engineering science at the University of Oxford at the time, discussed in an interview. Fox was an interdisciplinary scientist focusing on reasoning, decision-making, and other natural and artificial cognition theories at the time. Fox worked as a scientist for Cancer Research UK (CRUK) for several years, making significant contributions to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and care. He later rose to the position of a chief scientific officer at both OpenClinical and Deontics, the former a not-for-profit foundation backed by CRUK and the latter a startup attempting to apply innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) to the practice of medicine.

Psychologists have known for a long time that human decision-making is flawed, even if sometimes amazingly creative, and overconfidence is an important source of error in routine settings. A large part of the motivation for applying AI to medicine comes from the knowledge that to err is human and that overconfidence is an established cause of clinical mistakes. Overconfidence is a human failing and not that of a machine; it has a huge influence on our personal and collective successes and failures.

That, though, was an earlier point of view. We now know that prejudice can and does infiltrate AI systems. Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3), a new deep-learning technology that has the potential to be a programming assistant. It is focused on billions of words gathered from the internet as part of its 'learning' program. Its makers have been very cautious about when and how much of it would be made available for general use.

While the commercial incentive to create a ‘cheat sheet’ computer programming language for everyone must certainly be large, its creators have been reticent, as they have recognized that a lot of what is said on the internet (especially on social media) is hateful, racist and biased, and so the widespread use of GPT-3 before it is purged of such biases would yield net negative outcomes.

We must approach telemedicine and mental health through the internet via this prism. There is already a surge in the use of mental health technology and teletherapy. According to the MIT Technology Review, there was a 19-fold rise in such software downloads even early in the pandemic, and a 14-fold increase in those who claimed they were downloading the apps to alleviate anxiety. Many entrepreneurs and investors are likely drawn to this field because of the overconfidence created by such a surge in use.

In Tech Review, John Torous, director of digital psychiatry at the Harvard-Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is cited as saying these apps may in hindsight mark a turning point, with people increasing their access to mental healthcare, but when they’re used as standalone tools or for single interventions, the evidence of meta-analysis shows that they are just not as effective. While these apps may be used as adjuncts to therapy, the available evidence suggests that therapy alone is more effective.


To help their work, Newsmusk allows writers to use primary sources. White papers, government data, initial reporting, and interviews with industry experts are only a few examples. Where relevant, we also cite original research from other respected publishers.

Source - mint


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