There are nearly 3 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It is estimated that one in five of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD can be a very difficult, debilitating condition. However, nearly 80 percent of veterans who undergo treatment within a year of being diagnosed do see significant improvement. Unfortunately, fewer than ten percent of veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD will seek treatment within a year of their diagnosis. This lack of treatment is exacerbated by a shortage of available care. Federal health authorities estimate that nearly 4,000 areas in the country face a critical shortage of mental health professionals, and a majority of counties have no services provided by licensed behavioral health clinicians.
However, artificial intelligence may be able to provide some much-needed additional support. In an experiment to incorporate AI into PTSD treatment programs, Tiatros Inc. has teamed up with IBM Watson Health to create the Tiatros Post Traumatic Growth for Veterans program, a psychotherapy program connecting veterans with their peers and providers online. The platform was designed to deliver evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy that is personalized to each individual, while reducing some of the many barriers to access. Recently, IBM Watson Health and Tiatros announced that the program has achieved up to 73% completion rate for veterans who begin the PTSD sessions.
“We are hopeful about the promise that AI tools hold to help us personalize how we care for veterans with PTSD, and scale our ability to provide successful interventions,” said psychiatrist Kim Norman, MD, whose research program studies the use of scalable programs for behavioral health. “PTSD is a very challenging field and veterans face a lot of barriers to access that too often prevent them from receiving or completing a care program. We want to transform how we deliver care to them, delivering personalized, relevant content for each individual and using AI technologies to help make this possible.”
Watson’s Personality Insights and Tone Analyzer APIs are leveraged to support the behavioral health programs within Tiatros. This allows the technology to measure and monitor the participants’ emotional states, such as openness, optimism, and joy during various therapeutic interactions with program facilitators. This data is then evaluated, and the resulting insights are integrated into future treatment strategies and communications with the patients.
“Mental health is one of the most significant determinants of overall health, and innovators like Tiatros are pioneering the cognitive tools that will help scale successful programming to each individual in need,” said Kyu Rhee, MD, chief health officer, IBM Watson Health. “The Tiatrosresiliency programs, especially with their emphasis on technology-enabled peer groups, are a perfect example of the AI opportunity in healthcare. AI can enable medical professionals to scale what they do without sacrificing security and privacy and we are proud to be part of this novel program.”
Once again, nascent AI technology is showing the potential to help many people in many new ways, and despite an abundance of dystopian fiction on the subject and a predictable level of Luddite paranoia, the technology could be a boon to humanity in ways we still have yet to imagine. On this Veteran’s Day, it is encouraging to know we’re finding new ways to better help those who gave so much for us all.