AI, artificial intelligence, has taken over many fields of medicine, including psychiatry. Smartphone applications and conversational agents are legion, but are they as effective as the judgment of a professional in this discipline with empathy and reasoning? Why does the clinical judgment of the psychiatrist still outperform AI? However, psychiatry has a lot to expect from new technologies.
“Good morning, sir. Please have a seat. So… how have you been since the last time?”
What if, in a few years, this innocuous phrase was no longer spoken by a flesh-and-blood psychiatrist but by an AI, an Artificial Intelligence? With the recent resurgence of psychiatry in the public debate, especially due to the health crisis, the idea of proposing mental health monitoring systems integrating AIs has resurfaced.
It is, let’s be honest, far from new since the first trace of a chatbot (dialogue program) dedicated to psychiatry, named Eliza, can be found as early as 1966. In recent decades, advances in artificial intelligence have allowed the rise of chatbots, “robot therapists” or other systems for detecting health conditions through the voice.
Today, there are more than twenty robot therapists validated by scientific studies in psychiatry. Several of these studies suggest that patients could develop real therapeutic relationships with these technologies, and that some of them would even feel more comfortable with a chatbot than with a human psychiatrist.