Can Mental Health Chatbots Help Chronic Disease Populations?

  • STATUS
    Recruiting
  • End date
    Jul 1, 2022
  • participants needed
    60
  • sponsor
    Luke MacNeill
Updated on 24 November 2021
chronic disease
depression
anxiety
depressed mood

Summary

Past research has shown that patients suffering from chronic health conditions tend to experience high levels of negative mental health symptoms (e.g., depression). The purpose of the current study is to evaluate whether an artificial intelligence (A.I.) mental health chatbot can be used to reduce negative mental health symptoms within this population. A minimum of 60 individuals with a chronic health condition (diabetes or arthritis) will be recruited. Participants will be randomly assigned to either a treatment group or a control group. Those assigned to the treatment group will use the mental health chatbot Wysa (Touchkin eServices, Bangalore) over a period of four weeks. Those assigned to the control group will receive no chatbot. Participants will complete measures of depression, anxiety, stress, and life satisfaction via Qualtrics at the outset of the study, two weeks into the study, and four weeks into the study (i.e., the final assessment point). Results from the treatment and control groups will be compared using ANOVA models. Participants in the treatment group will also be asked to complete some open-ended questions about their experiences with the chatbot program. A subset of participants from the treatment group may be asked to complete optional phone or video interviews to gain a better understanding of their experiences. Results will provide insight into the usefulness of chatbot programs for reducing negative mental health symptoms among patients with a chronic health condition. Results may also be used to inform policy decisions about the use of these programs for healthcare delivery, and to provide practical insight into how these programs can be best integrated into healthcare settings.

Description

People dealing with chronic health conditions are susceptible to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Providing conventional mental health services to all of these individuals is not practical given the limited resources of the healthcare system. Artificial intelligence (A.I.) mental health chatbots may be an accessible and cost-effective means by which people can receive some degree of mental health support while they cope with their conditions. These automated programs act as a source of virtual support, talking with individuals and providing them with therapeutic exercises to improve their mental wellbeing. Several chatbots have been designed to deliver interventions based on popular psychological therapies (e.g., Wysa, Woebot, and Tess). Research has shown that these programs can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress in nonclinical populations. However, the effectiveness of these programs has not been tested in chronic disease populations.

The purpose of the current research is to gain a better understanding of the usefulness of mental health chatbots for chronic disease populations. This research will be guided by two fundamental objectives: (1) to determine whether a mental health chatbot can reduce or prevent negative mental health symptoms in individuals who are dealing with a chronic health condition, and (2) to learn more about how individuals with a chronic health condition view these programs, particularly in terms of their potential benefits or drawbacks when used in healthcare settings. This research will focus on two specific chronic disease populations that are prone to elevated levels of mental health symptoms: people with arthritis and diabetes.

Participants will be recruited through social media channels (including online groups), newspaper advertisements, and emails and newsletters from relevant organizations (e.g., the Arthritis Society, Diabetes Canada). After volunteering to participate, participants will set up a phone or video conferencing call with the primary investigator to orient them into the study. Participants will be randomly assigned to either a treatment group or control group. Those assigned to the treatment group will download the mental health chatbot Wysa (Touchkin eServices, Bangalore) on their smartphones. They will interact with the chatbot a minimum of two times per week over a period of four weeks, with each interaction lasting a minimum of five minutes. Participants assigned to the control group will receive no chatbot (i.e., they will be in a no-treatment control group).

Regardless of their group assignment, participants will complete online materials via Qualtrics at the outset of the study, two weeks into the study, and four weeks into the study (i.e., the final assessment point). At the outset of the study, participants will fill out an informed consent form, a demographic questionnaire, and four psychological assessments tools: measures of depression, anxiety, stress, and life satisfaction. Two weeks into the study, participants will complete the four psychological assessment tools a second time. Four weeks into the study, participants will complete the four assessment tools a final time, and those in the treatment group will be presented with a post-study questionnaire that contains qualitative questions regarding their experiences with the chatbot. Participants in both groups will be presented with a debriefing form providing more information about the study. Those in the control group will be given the opportunity to download and use the chatbot at this point.

After the data from the four-week study are analyzed, a subset of participants from the treatment group may be asked to complete optional phone or video interviews to gain more insight into their experiences with and opinions on the chatbot program. Approximately 15 to 20 participants will be sought for the interviews. The questions for these interviews will be developed based on the collective results from the quantitative and qualitative analysis described above.

Details
Condition NIDDM, Diabetes Mellitus, Endogenous depression, Depression, Arthritis, ANXIETY NEUROSIS, Anxiety, Stress, Depressed, Anxiety Symptoms, Anxiety Disorders, Diabetes, depressive disorder, type 2 diabetes mellitus, anxiety disorder, depressed mood, miserable, diabetes mellitus (dm), depressive disorders, anxious, type 2 diabetes, type ii diabetes, noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, diabetes type 2, inflammatory arthritis
Treatment Wysa
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04620668
SponsorLuke MacNeill
Last Modified on24 November 2021

Eligibility

Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Participants must have a diagnosis of diabetes (type 1 or type 2 diabetes) or arthritis (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or another type of arthritis)
Participants must have a phone with an active Internet connection

Exclusion Criteria

Participants must not be receiving ongoing treatment from a mental health professional
Participants must not be using a mental health chatbot (i.e., prior to the study)
Participants must not have started or experienced a dosage change in a psychopharmacological drug within the previous month
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