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The Future of Psychiatry in the Age of AI

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

Connecting urology and psychiatry may seem like a stretch, but there are several parallels between the two fields when it comes to the use of artificial intelligence (AI). During my research experience in urology, I had the opportunity to work on a project that used AI to detect kidney stones in patients. By applying machine learning algorithms to analyze CT scans, the aim was to identify the presence of kidney stones with a high degree of precision and accuracy. As I worked on the project, I couldn't help but think about how similar the approach could be to diagnosing mental health conditions. Like kidney stones, mental health conditions can be difficult to diagnose and often require a combination of subjective assessments and objective data. Could AI be used to analyze patient data and identify patterns that might not be visible to human clinicians, leading to earlier and more accurate diagnoses?

As AI technology continues to develop, it holds tremendous potential to transform the way we approach diagnosis, treatment, and research in mental health. Here are three ways that AI may shape the future of psychiatry: 

1) Improved diagnosis:

Machine learning algorithms can analyze large amounts of data, including patient history, symptoms, and other factors to identify patterns and predict diagnoses. This could lead to earlier and more accurate diagnoses, which in turn could lead to a better prognosis for patients. One approach is to use latent semantic analysis (LSA), a tool using computerized techniques to analyze speech transcripts. LSA has been successfully used in differentiating patients with schizophrenia and healthy control volunteers. 

2) Predictive analytics: 

AI could also be used to predict which patients are at the highest risk of developing mental health conditions or experiencing relapses. AI could help identify patients who could benefit from early interventions or more frequent monitoring by analyzing patient history, lifestyle factors, and other variables. This may be especially useful in detecting the intent of suicide in high-risk patient populations, which is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. Walsh, et al. predicted future suicide attempts in a cohort of adults with a history of self-injury by applying machine learning to EHRs, achieving a 92% accuracy in predicting whether someone would complete a suicide attempt within the following seven days.

3) Personalized treatment: 

Another potential benefit of AI in psychiatry is its ability to personalize treatment plans for individual patients. By analyzing data on a patient's history, symptoms, and response to previous treatments, AI could help identify the most effective treatments for a particular patient. This could lead to more targeted and effective treatment plans, with fewer side effects and better outcomes.

There are already examples of AI being used in mental health, such as chatbots and smartphone apps that provide guidance and support to patients with anxiety and depression. As AI continues to develop, it will have a significant impact on the field of psychiatry. By improving diagnosis and prediction for psychiatric disorders and personalized treatment, AI could lead to better outcomes for patients and a deeper understanding of mental health conditions.

However, as with any new technology, there are ethical considerations to take into account. For instance, it will be crucial to ensure that patient data is protected, and that AI algorithms are not biased against certain groups of people. As we move forward, we must be sure to approach AI in psychiatry with caution, taking care to address these considerations. That said, I believe that AI can be a powerful tool for improving mental health outcomes. I am excited to see where the future of psychiatry in the age of AI will take us!

Have you used AI in your clinical practice? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Seo Yeon “Ester” Choi is a fourth-year medical student at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Ester graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL with a major in psychology and minor in business institutions. Ester is interested in cross-cultural care and plans to treat diverse communities as a future psychiatrist. 

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