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Ieso Digital Health uses deep learning for insight into clinical outcomes and psychotherapy




A leading exponent of internet-enabled mental health therapy has published new research built around psychotherapy and clinical outcomes.

Ieso Digital Health’s paper, published in JAMA Psychiatry, applies deep learning to large-scale clinical data.

Dr Nigel Pitchford, CEO of Ieso Digital Health (16072070)
Dr Nigel Pitchford, CEO of Ieso Digital Health (16072070)

The aim was to understand what aspects of psychotherapy content are associated with clinical outcomes.

Today, one in four adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any one year, but compared with the treatment of physical conditions, the quality of care of mental health disorders remains poor, as does the rate of improvement in treatment.

Unlike other medical treatments, psychotherapy is comprised of a series of one-to-one discussions, which means there is a lack of systematic methods for measuring the treatment delivered.

However, with internet-enabled cognitive behavioural therapy, a patient communicates with a therapist using real-time instant messaging which means conversations can be captured as transcripts.

With unique access to 90,000 hours of recorded therapy transcripts from its ie-CBT platform, Ieso has trained a deep learning model (a type of machine learning), to automatically recognise the content of the language used by therapists during patient sessions.

The Ieso research team then used this model to measure the treatment delivered to determine which features are associated with an improvement in patient symptoms.

The research provided valuable insights into the relationship between therapy content and clinical outcomes than have previously been unavailable.

The findings showed that when treatment contained a greater quantity of CBT change methods, patients are more likely to show an improvement in symptoms.

Patients were less likely to improve when sessions had increased quantity of ‘non-therapy’ content - such as conversations not related to treatment.

Michael Ewbank, a senior scientist at Ieso and lead author on the paper, explained: “With our deep learning model, we can extract knowledge accumulated across thousands of hours of CBT in a way that would be impossible for a human to do.

“What is exciting about this study is that it demonstrates the potential of Ieso’s data set, where we can understand more about what the active ingredients of therapy are, what works for whom, and develop new and more effective treatments for mental health disorders. Our work represents a first step towards a practicable approach for quality controlled behavioural health care with the goal of improving the efficacy of psychotherapy.”

Ieso is based at the Jeffreys Building in Cowley Road, Milton.

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