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Trial Underway of AI Depression Guidance System


(Ulrike Mai, Pixabay.

20 June 2022. A clinical trial has begun testing a system based on artificial intelligence to help clinicians prescribe personalized care for depression in patients. The trial is evaluating technology developed by Aifred Health Inc., a digital health company in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the sponsor of the study.

Aifred Health is a five year-old enterprise that seeks to improve care for people with depression, a common mental health condition affecting five percent of the global adult population, or about 280 million people, according to World Health Organization. And Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in six Americans will experience depression during their lifetimes. The company cites data showing the current trial-and-error approach to prescribing therapy or medications for depression is often ineffective, with 70 percent of patients not responding to initial treatments, and as many as 30 percent still not responding to a fourth prescribed treatment.

Aifred Health says its technology analyzes behavioral health data directly from the patient, either in-person or using telehealth. The company says its system, based on best-evidence clinical guidelines, use artificial intelligence algorithms to process the data from patients. Outputs from the system, says Aifred Health, help clinicians identify the stage of a patient’s depression, and guide next steps for therapy, such as psychotherapy or medications.

Looking for adverse effects and reductions in symptoms

The clinical trial is enrolling 350 participants diagnosed with major depression rated moderate to severe, at 12 sites in the U.S. and Canada, including Veterans Affairs hospitals. All trial participants provide data on their conditions to the Aifred Health system, but only some randomly selected clinicians receive reports from the system to guide decisions about further therapy for their patients. The company says the trial’s first participant began receiving treatment.

Participants in the trial are followed for three months, with the study team looking primarily for signs of adverse effects and reductions in depression symptoms. The team is also tracking time needed for patients to reach remission, response rate to treatments, and extent of disability as measured by a standard WHO rating scale. The company hypothesizes that trial participants treated by clinicians receiving reports from the Aifred Health system will reach remission sooner, respond more readily to treatments, and score lower on the disability scale than participants with clinicians not receiving reports. (Science & Enterprise asked the company for more details on measuring effects of interventions in the trial.)

“We have been collaborating with clinicians and clinical centers for more than three years,” says David Benrimoh, Aifred Health’s chief scientist in a company statement released through Cision, “to inform and guide our development of a decision support tool that will integrate into clinical workflow and be used by treating physicians to positively impact care. If the clinical trial validates our hypothesis, I expect the rapid adoption of Aifred’s technology across North America, as the advantages for the patients, doctors, and hospitals are crystal clear.”

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