SME of the Week: Wysa

Emma Taylor, Clinical Lead at Wysa, shares why their AI chatbot was created, their evidence base to date, and plans for the future.

The creation of Wysa

It is estimated that 1-in-6 people will have experienced a common mental health concern in the past week. However, an estimated 75% of people who would benefit from support do not receive it, resulting in costs of approximately £105.2 billion a year to the UK economy (Alonzo et al, 2018).

According to the Community Mental Health Survey in 2020, early half of survey respondents (44%) who had received NHS mental health support, in 2019, reported that they had to wait too long to access services. Similarly, in 2017, half of the respondents reported only being offered pharmaceutical treatment. Additionally, another study conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2020, found that 38% of people waiting for treatment for mental health concerns, reach out to crisis services and 11% of patients go to A&E.

We created Wysa to tackle this growing problem and to improve user experience of the mental health pathway with continuous, conversational care. Wysa is an AI enabled chat solution that supports users throughout their entire journey with mental health. The app uses AI enabled chat, with free text functionality, to listen to the concerns and experiences of service users, and recommend clinician written tools, resources and programs designed to support a breadth of conditions. Our team have worked hard to develop a clinical safety pathway and an integrated SOS pathway which looks to detect risk of harm to self or from others and escalates the user to local pathways for crisis support.

Our evidence base

In 2018, we published a peer reviewed paper looking at the real-world effects of Wysa. Average mood improvement was measured by calculating the difference in pre- and post-self-reported depression scores between different groups. We found that the high-user group had significantly higher average mood improvement, compared with the low-user group.

In June 2021, we became the first mental health app to be awarded the AI award by NIHR/NHSX to test the effect of AI on mental health outcomes for clients accessing NHS IAPT services. We will be exploring the effect for patients on a waiting list for Step 2 and Step 3 services, users in treatment as a home practice support, and as ongoing support post discharge. This RCT commences with Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust in June.

The roll-out of Wysa

One of the reasons we joined the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme was to create stronger connections with NHS providers and commissioners as we move into local, regional and national deployment. As we launch our e-triage pathway, waiting list self-help tools and AI cCBT programmes, we have taken great care to co-design our innovation with services to support the collection of referral information whilst also providing immediate support for people seeking a service. This ensures an end-to-end provision for service users and releases more time for care to clinicians.

Shortly after joining the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator, we were pleased to be able to announce a collaboration with Mayden and their electronic patient record IAPTUS. Wysa is now fully integrated with IAPTUS via their API,allowing for information from the app to flow into the electronic patient record. This includes referral information, outcome measures, the tools users have accessed and any SOS events.

We are keen to continue collaborating with the NHS and healthcare organisations to progress the role of AI in mental health support pathways with the goal of creating long term 24/7 digital support for service users and to relieve service pressures.

For more information: Contact Wysa

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Wysa is part of the sixth cohort of the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme.

The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator is a collaborative programme funded by two of London’s Academic Health Science Networks – UCL Partners and the Health Innovation Network, MedCity, CW+ and receives match funding from the European Regional Development Fund.