Long reads

Can AI deliver the future of wellness at work?

Aoibhinn Mc Bride

Aoibhinn Mc Bride

Content Editor, Jobbio

Could robots replace the human race? Could machines stage a mass revolt and take over the planet? Thankfully, both scenarios seem far-fetched, but with advances in machine learning and the advent of ChatGPT transforming and simplifying the tasks performed by people, artificial intelligence (AI) continues to be viewed with suspicion and trepidation.

That is according to recent data compiled by IBM which identified that building trust in AI will require collective effort from scientists, industry and governments. The report also identified that using AI for social good is a key component in changing mass perception of the technology.

Workplace wellness

Currently in the UK, nearly 15% of the workforce have experienced some kind of mental health related issue, and the Mental Health Foundation, an independent research body, has identified that better mental health support in the workplace could save UK businesses up to £8 billion annually.

Enter Kintsugi, the mental healthcare app developed by Berkeley-based entrepreneurs and engineers Grace Chang and Rima Seiilova-Olson, with voice biomarker software to detect signs of clinical depression and anxiety in just 20 seconds of free-form speech. The company’s plans for 2023 include a full end-to-end component where its software will facilitate the triage, diagnosis and treatment plan needed.

“Mental healthcare has become a lot more prevalent in people’s lives since the pandemic and I think employers have given a lot of thought around what sort of solutions can be put in place because there’s an obvious shortage of specialists that can address some of these issues,” Chang suggests.

“The first step is being able to understand how severe the issue is from the get-go, but a lot of the tools available to individuals when they are in that state are paper surveys, and that’s not the easiest thing to go through. Once you have the result that you are struggling with severe depression or anxiety, the next step is, where do I go next? Often employers will put a few different solutions in front of their employees from medication applications to access to therapists––but it’s not easy to navigate.”

Turning point

It was during a trip to Japan that Chang became aware of the ancient art form of kintsugi, which involves repairing broken ceramics with gold enamel. “In the repair and restoration of something you can make it that much more beautiful and it [kintsugi] gave me enough courage to start this new endeavour to address being able to provide access to mental healthcare for everyone,” she says.

“I had challenges trying to access mental health care through my provider, calling for five months at a time and calling, calling, calling - and nobody being able to pick up. Rima, my co-founder, also experienced this with postpartum, not having anyone reach back out to her.

“For both of us who are engineers, we maybe saw this problem through a different lens. We saw this as mostly an infrastructure problem where you have so many people trying to jam through that front door, but not a lot of visibility as to who is severely depressed; who is low to moderate. If we could provide some visibility at that bottleneck, maybe we would serve to improve having access to mental healthcare.”

Filling in the gaps

In the early days of developing a voice journaling application, Chang and Seiilova-Olson consulted clinicians and therapists who frequently cited a collection of studies which state that an articulation of top-of-mind issues can help mitigate signs of anxiety, depression and stress.

“From empirical research, we found that it wasn’t important what people were saying but how they were saying it, and this was fundamental to the development of our machine learning models,” she explains.

Thanks to this breakthrough, the team changed focus to allow for real time calculations. As its model is language agnostic, it can detect vocal viral markers that are the most predictive of clinical depression and anxiety, regardless of language, accent, or dialect.

“We have the ability to potentially transform the field of mental health by giving it some objectivity and measurement, but this bears a lot of responsibility that we design that in an ethical way, in a way that serves the needs of the patients,” Chang says.  “I think it’s really valuable that the optimisation of machines will allow humans to be more human.”

Increasing market

In data compiled by Gartner, the AI software market has increased by 21% when compared to 2021, and those with AI experience in more senior roles are in high demand. In fact, AI and machine learning skills can help workers to get paid more.

If you are looking for a new career challenge in 2023 or want to put your experience in AI and machine learning to better use, the Finextra Job Board has hundreds of opportunities across the field, like the three roles below.

Senior Specialist, Full-Stack Developer, BNY Mellon, London

Global investments company BNY Mellon is looking for a Senior Full-Stack Developer. You will be expected to drive technology research, adoption, and innovation, while providing technical guidance and mentoring to more junior developers. You will be contributing to architectural direction and mapping of business cases to technical architecture. View more details here.

Software Engineer - Reliability Engineering, Starling Bank, London

Starling seeks a Software Engineer - Reliability Engineering to be responsible for building and running the systems needed to ensure resilience across the whole platform. You will also continually enhance incident response capability through tooling and practice improvements, and participate in chaos experimentation to improve resilience. See the full job spec here.

Staff Technical Program Manager, ML, Ripple, London

Crypto company Ripple is seeking a Staff Technical Program Manager to join the team responsible for making liquidity available to its customers. A challenging and technical role, the ideal candidate will have expertise in business and technical requirements along with the foresight to solve Ripple’s current and future customer needs. To apply for this position click here.

For more exciting opportunities in AI and machine learning, visit the Finextra Job Board today.

Comments: (1)

Yavor Stoimenov
Yavor Stoimenov - Euronet Worldwide - Sofia 06 February, 2023, 13:07Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Is this the only application of such kind? Or this is an advertisment of this specific application?