UP-NTHC success story: National Telehealth Center partners with Senti AI to develop mental health chat assistant for Filipinos
Posted by Senti AI
June 26, 2023
The University of the Philippines — National Telehealth Center (NTHC) is an organization that provides health workers with eHealth and telemedicine tools. NTHC is also responsible for designing, developing, and implementing health information systems in the Philippines. Their role also includes monitoring and evaluating the efficacy of digital health solutions.
Mental health has been a rising topic in the country, especially in educational and workplace settings, ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started. A recent report by the Calm Collective Asia revealed that 38% of Filipino workers do not feel comfortable sharing their concerns with colleagues and supervisors, affecting their mental health in the process. Data shared by the Department of Education (DepEd) also showed that that 404 students had committed suicide in 2021, while over 2,000 had attempted to take their lives. In that same year, DepEd launched a helpline for mental health support for students and faculty staff in an attempt to address the shortage of guidance counselors.
In order to help address the mental health crisis, the center wanted to develop a tool that will make mental health support more accessible in the Philippines.
NTHC partnered with Senti AI to design, develop and implement a natural language processing-enabled chat assistant that helps people with mild COVID-19 who are also suffering from depression and anxiety symptoms.
The mental health chat assistant can determine the user’s sentiment (positive, neutral, negative) and if they are having suicidal thoughts based on the user’s answers to the Patient Health Questionnaire Anxiety-Depression Scale questionnaire (PHQ-9). The PHQ-9 scores correspond to the severity of the user’s anxiety and depression.
Since users have the option to type responses apart from engaging through suggestion chips, the chat assistant was also designed to generalize and understand phrases even if these are in jumbled sequences. Senti AI’s local language expertise also enabled the chat assistant’s capability to converse in English, Filipino, and Taglish.
However, should the chat assistant encounter a response it has not been trained to understand, it will resort to generic replies until it can understand the user’s responses again.
During the conversation, the chat assistant will provide reading materials and resources on how the user can improve their mental health. It also screens users who may need professional assistance beyond that general interventions can offer and will recommend the nearest mental healthcare facility based on the user’s location.
Senti AI deployed the chat assistant on Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and used Google’s DialogFlow to provide a built-in visual analytics dashboard so NTHC can analyze the chat assistant’s engagements with users. DialogFlow allows NTHC to see trends such as how many sessions DISPO has conducted, the number of interactions with users, where most users stay and what most users ask. GCP’s Service Organization Controls 2 certificate also ensures that the data gathered and stored will be safe.
The chat assistant is part of NTHC’s DISPO app which includes widgets which can be used for journaling. At present, DISPO can only store PHQ-9 scores and sentiments. Future updates of the chat assistant may include sentiment analysis based on Tagalog and Taglish conversations, as well as life threatening classification (proper suicide detection model) based on conversational data and its corresponding labels.
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