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Reading of the Week: Can Machine Learning Improve Psychotherapy? The New JAMA Psychiatry Paper; Also, Santa Ono on His Mental Illness

From the Editor

“Compared with treatment of physical conditions, the quality of care of mental health disorders remains poor, and the rate of improvement in treatment is slow. Outcomes for many mental disorders have stagnated or even declined since the original treatments were developed.”

Are there two sentences more disappointing to read? One in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem this year – and yet we have basic problems with quality (and access).

Could AI and machine learning help?

In the first selection, we consider a new JAMA Psychiatry paper which opens with the two sentences above. The University of Cambridge’s Michael P. Ewbankand his co-authors don’t simply bemoan the status quo but seek to change it – they “developed a method of objectively quantifying psychotherapy using a deep learning approach to automatically categorize therapist utterances from approximately 90  000 hours of [internet-delivered CBT]…” In other words, by breaking therapy down into a couple of dozen techniques and then employing machine learning, they attempt to match techniques with outcomes (patient improvement and engagement), with an eye on finding what works and what doesn’t. And, yes, you read that right: they drew on 90 000 hours of therapy. They show: “factors specific to CBT, as well as factors common to most psychotherapies, are associated with increased odds of reliable improvement in patient symptoms.”

machinelearninginmarketing-1621x1000Can computers (and machine learning) improve human therapy?

In the second selection, we consider the comments of University of British Columbia President Santa Ono about school and the stresses of school. Ono speaks about his own struggle with depression. “I’ve been there at the abyss.”

DG

 

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Reading of the Week: Better Pay, Better Service? The CMAJ Paper on Pay for Performance in Psychiatry. Also, a Father’s Memory

From the Editor

Does pay for performance work for psychiatry?

This week’s first selection is a paper just published by CMAJ that considers that question. Drawing on Ontario data, the authors looked at practice patterns when financial incentives were introduced for psychiatrists to take care of patients after discharge and after suicide attempts. Spoiler alert: they didn’t work.

http-i-huffpost-com-gen-1291505-images-n-free-health-care-canada-628x314Paying for Performance – Getting Performance?

In this Reading, we consider the paper and the larger debate.

We also consider a short, moving essay by radio host Charles Adler on the memory of his father – and his father’s memory. The award-winning broadcaster describes his father and his Alzheimer.

DG

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