Artificial Intelligence at Ieso - Part 1: The Past - Valentin Tablan
Part 1: The Past
On March 1st 2017 I gave a presentation at the summit dedicated to Deep Learning in Healthcare, organised by ReWork in London. I used that opportunity to talk about Ieso’s work on using artificial intelligence to improve mental health provision in the UK. This blog post is a companion for the content of my presentation.
For years, mental health has been a poor relation of physical health. Research into cancer and cardio-vascular disease gets billions of pounds/dollars/euros invested every year, while mental health receives orders of magnitude less. We all agree that cancer and heart disease are big problems that we’d want to see addressed, but so is mental health. We’ve all seen the studies reporting that one-in-four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition in any one year. As in other areas of medicine, mental health conditions vary in severity, the most serious can be deadly. Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 34 in the US and men under 50 in the UK, and there is clearly a mental health element associated with suicide.
We live in an age of technology and medicine is one area that has benefited greatly from technical advancements. During the twentieth century, practitioners of physical medicine got magnetic resonance imaging, sonography, computer aided tomography, DNA testing, and countless other tests that are performed in well equipped laboratories. At the same time, mental health practitioners were given a notepad and pencil. At Ieso we are working on reducing this discrepancy by building tools for psychotherapists. As fits the 21st century, increasingly these tools are expected to be intelligent ones.
 Pencils can write upside down, and in zero gravity, so I suppose they are a form of advanced space-age technology.
More and more aspects of our lives are moving online, from paying our car tax, talking to our MP, shopping, and reconnecting to our school friends. Ieso is changing the way psychotherapy is delivered by providing an online platform where patient and therapist chat to each other by visiting a web site on their laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. This allows therapy to move out of the therapist’s office during business hours and into familiar surroundings at a time of our choosing, thus making it more convenient and avoiding the stigma that sometimes still surrounds those seeking help.
Ieso’s method of delivering cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) online has been validated in a randomised controlled trial published in The Lancet in 2009, and has been gaining recognition since. We started working with the NHS in 2010, providing treatment to patients and we're now commissioned by over 30 CCG's covering a population of over 9 million people. The numbers of patients referred to us have been doubling year-on-year and by the end of 2016, we had treated more than 10,000 patients.
Stay tuned to see how we were able to build upon the exemplary work we did with our past patients and construct an intelligent computer model that understands mental health. Details about that in the next post in this series - Part 2: The Present
 Kessler, David, et al. "Therapist-delivered Internet psychotherapy for depression in primary care: a randomised controlled trial." The Lancet 374.9690 (2009): 628-634.