As mental health care has increasingly shifted online, there’s been growing interest in the role artificial intelligence (AI) could play in improving mental health therapy, especially in the virtual care context. And for good reason: AI has the potential to both improve patient outcomes and provide therapists with new tools to help them scale their practices.
While tools that analyze therapist-client conversations, treatment plans and case histories to provide therapists with clinical guidance on treatment approaches or monitor client progress are still in their infancy (and may be slow to be embraced by some providers), therapists don’t have to jump straight into the deep end to see some benefit from leveraging AI and conversation intelligence.
For me, two areas currently stand out as “low-hanging fruit” for AI in virtual therapy, requiring minimal effort from therapists while offering significant benefit: Improving virtual therapy call quality via automated quality assurance (QA) and creating automated session notes for therapists and clients. Each of these use cases offers therapists and digital health companies focused on virtual therapy a low-lift way to leverage AI for the betterment of both the client and therapist experience, without requiring them to stray too far outside their comfort zone.
One of the key ways that AI could be used in virtual therapy is through automated quality assurance (QA). By analyzing therapist-client conversations and comparing them against organizational or professional best practices, AI-powered conversation intelligence tools can help therapists or digital health companies and practices that employ large numbers of therapists to improve their call quality. This could both level up the client experience and offer therapists timely feedback and training.
By ensuring therapists are following best practices, automated QA can both improve patient care and expedite the growth of therapists by providing them with the support they need to do their best work. By analyzing therapist-client conversations and highlighting areas where they may be deviating from best practices, AI-powered QA can help therapists to identify areas for improvement and adjust their approach accordingly. This can not only improve the quality of care that therapists provide, but also help them to feel more confident and competent in their roles. This would be an especially big help for practices hiring and supervising recent graduates, since these early-career therapists require a lot of oversight.
Furthermore, automated QA can help digital health companies that focus on virtual therapy monitor the performance of their therapists at scale, providing them with valuable insights into how their staff are doing and identifying any potential issues that may need to be addressed. This can help these companies to ensure that their therapists are providing the best possible care to their clients, and can ultimately improve the overall quality of their services.
Automated session notes
Automated session notes, generated by AI systems trained in natural language processing, have the potential to greatly improve the virtual therapy experience for both therapists and clients. In addition to saving therapists time and effort in creating detailed session notes, AI-generated notes can also help therapists provide more focused and effective care for their clients.
These notes can include a summary of the main points discussed in the session, any notable behaviors or emotions observed, and any other relevant information. This can ensure that therapists have a complete record of each session and can easily track progress and identify patterns over time. The same goes for clients, who can easily access topics discussed with their therapist, action items and approaches to consider between visits.
Furthermore, AI systems can be trained to identify key themes or issues that arise during therapy sessions, and alert therapists to these so that they can address them in more detail. This can help therapists to provide more focused and personalized care for their clients, ultimately improving patient outcomes.
Using AI to automate the creation of session notes can also help therapists to scale their practices and offer more transparency to clients. By removing the time and effort required to create detailed session notes, therapists can focus on providing high-quality care to their clients, and digital health companies can offer a more efficient and effective virtual therapy experience.
The use of AI in virtual therapy has the potential to improve patient outcomes and provide therapists with new tools to help them scale their practices. Automated QA and session notes are just two of the lowest-lift ways in which AI could be used in this context, and there are likely many other potential applications that could be explored in the future.