With the staggering shortage of mental health practitioners worldwide, more and more startups are looking for alternative ways to provide patient care. One of the most popular technologies is chatbots.
Now we are seeing one more entrance emerge into that market. On Thursday, Sweden- and UK-based medical device company Flow, best known for its brain stimulation headset, launched a new chatbot aimed at helping to treat depression.
According to the company the new technology was designed to engage users in conversation, track mood and meditate. Additionally, users can also use the chatbot to download curated video content.
The system was designed to educate users about how their sleep, exercise, nutrition and meditation can impact depression. It also analyzes user’s data to give personalized behavioral therapy.
This news comes months after the company announced a $1.5 million investment led by Khosla ventures. In June the company rolled out its brain stimulation headset and companion app, which uses electrical currents to stimulate specific parts of the brain in order to help users rebalance. The new chatbot can connect to the headset.
WHY IT MATTERS
Globally over 300 million suffer from depression, making it the leading cause of disability in the world. However, less than half receive effective treatments, according to the World Health Organization.
“Accessibility and early intervention in depression is crucial,” Daniel Mansson, CEO and cofounder of Flow, said in a statement. “The ‘always-on’ source of therapy provided by Flow ensures people get the help they need as quickly as possible. Flow can provide anonymity without the fear of being judged by others. This is great as some people feel anxious when it comes to talking about their depression to another human.”
THE LARGER TREND
Mental health chatbots have been sprouting up on both sides of the pond. In the US, Woebot, an AI mental health chatbot, debuted in 2017. Since then it has become a smartphone app and in 2018 it landed $8 million in Series A funding.
Additionally UpLift Health, an Atlanta-based startup has created an app that employs cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help users with depression, scored $1 million in funding over the summer.
Meanwhile in Brazil, TNH Health raised $2 million in Series A funding for its AI-enabled chatbot focused on mental health.
Additionally in the UK, Ieso Digital Health announced a new research project dubbed Eight Billion Minds, which aims to use the data from its platform to build an autonomous digital therapeutic. The new effort will be specifically focused on creating a platform to tackle the shortage of mental health professionals globally.