As CSOFT observes Mental Health Awareness Month this May, developments in language AI that are rapidly changing the possibilities of mental health care make a fitting topic for our continued exploration of the many ways AI is changing the communications landscape across fields and industries. At this time for recognizing an aspect of health that is often difficult to witness, AI is playing a major role in advancing novel solutions for improving it, often in ways that emphasize the crucial importance of communications and language in improving outcomes.
Listening for communication patterns may be a requirement for practitioners of all fields of medicine when assessing patients, but few areas place more emphasis on interpreting what a patient is saying than mental health care. Soon, however, it may be more-than-human communication tools that hold the most promise for bringing clearer diagnosis and monitoring for people and families of people afflicted with conditions such as bipolar disorder, with one group working to demonstrate how language AI can be used to interpret the unheard signals in speech patterns that foreshadow manic or depressive episodes. As well as helping patients themselves, the effort reportedly brings a technological approach to improving the experience of family members who can sense when something is wrong, but may not always be in a position to support. By treating worrying variations from ‘baseline’ speech as a biomarker, a range of wearable or other medical devices that can listen for and track this data could offer a way to offset to perceived needs for supervision and gain time in advance of episodes to prepare.
The pandemic has brought greater focus to the uses of AI vocal diagnostics in detecting signs of illness and related phenomena, from the COVID-19 virus itself to whether or not people talking in public have masks on. It has also done the same for mental health awareness. The effort to develop language-based AI to help people with bipolar disorder, predating the pandemic, goes beyond AI sound analysis into the more complex realm of language itself, analyzing changing patterns in people’s speech that tend to show up when their mental state is swinging toward the condition’s hallmark highs and lows. As such, it simultaneously highlights the complexities of mental illness that can make effective treatments more elusive while demonstrating the power of language to bridge real gaps in our understanding of diseases and patient experiences. Invariably, the importance of language in patient communications tends to emerge, and advances in treatment and therapy are increasingly a direct product of advances in linguistic AI.
As AI accelerates, the pandemic has further driven interest in technologies that can administer care with a minimum of person-to-person contact. Beyond remote consultations, mental health provides a natural inroad for exploring whether people can resolve some or many of their needs for clinical support through automated services. However, as publicly available wellness apps emerge, the line between true therapy and recreational self-help may grow difficult to delineate. One concern is whether such apps that promise to help people with their mental health are safe, helpful, or generally good for improving awareness and support for those battling mental illness in the general population. Regardless, advances in AI will deliver new options in treatment for clinical practitioners to incorporate in their work with patients. How these options are designated for use will be especially important to navigate for products and services entering overseas markets, where online privacy is often a highly prioritized concern with unique requirements by region.
In expanding digital products to multilingual user groups and overseas markets, localizing effectively into users’ native cultural context is vital to ensuring the quality of communications with patients, and that importance is especially amplified in this field of care. Cultural equivalency – the need to ensure a localized product resonates at the nearest appropriate equivalence as in its original language – comes with added requirements to ensure communications are sensitive to the mental states of vulnerable users and patients. Whereas telehealth mitigates language barriers through interpreting, technologies that can be prescribed to patients need to incorporate these considerations at the product level, from instructional materials to user interfaces.
For companies growing their technologies’ availability in new languages and entering new markets, CSOFT’s end-to-end localization solutions ensure that products are fully accessible and suitably adapted to users’ cultural and contextual needs, utilizing native, in-country linguists with subject matter expertise (SME) in the required field. Learn more about our solutions at csoftintl.com.