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  • Cheryl Tan

Imagine Cup 2020: The Future of Using AI to Tackle Mental Health Issues

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2020 has had a year of firsts. Not only is this year’s Imagine Cup the first time the competition has gone fully digital, but Team Hollo, the winners, are also the first team from Hong Kong to win the grand prize.

In these uncertain times, we’ve seen mental health gain more attention and discourse as Covid-19 and safe distancing measures affect all of us around the world.

Team Hollo developed a healthcare tool for NGOs, therapists and youth living with mental illnesses to help advance therapy practices by using big data and AI. It essentially puts a mental health companion and therapist onto a single platform for easy access. By integrating an AI chatbot onto the platform, Hollo introduces and gets youth accustomed to therapy and counselling sessions without fear of judgement.

The team felt that each person’s mental health experience was so unique that they would need a model to reflect and cater to the differences. Hence, Team Hollo advocated for the importance of adopting AI and machine learning which would allow the tool to identify these differences and react accordingly. This would allow users to seek the necessary help whether it is mindfulness practices or therapy.

After users complete their first screening, the results are curated and through the power of AI and machine learning, the app can map out symptoms and create predictive models to understand the risks and potential relapses of patients.

This data is then fed into a network of NGOs and counsellors where they can be alerted of potential high-risk cases without breaching privacy, empowering industry professionals to initiate the outreach to high-risk individuals. This also allows counsellors and mental health clinics to benefit from effective monitoring and alerting of changes in their clients’ day to day status, as well as streamlining the administrative process.

That’s not to say the app can take over the role of doctors, therapists and counsellors though.

The app is designed to help medical professionals facilitate triage, the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments by the severity of their condition, onboarding and screening process of new patients. It will also help track and monitor patients’ progress so psychiatrists are well-informed with their latest information in between appointments.

The tool isn’t meant to replace doctors or clinical professionals but rather, to facilitate and enhance the quality of their services by alleviating mundane tasks and increasing the precision of treatment and diagnosis.

But what inspired Team Hollo to come up with this idea and keep with it? According to them, it’s the belief in the mission their team was working towards.

“Even if the product model or beneficiaries change along the way, your drive to create impact with technology should remain strong. Identify an area in society that you feel needs to be addressed and go be the change you want to see in the world.”

Of course, all this wouldn’t have been possible without the platform to develop the app, and the best part of winning the grand prize is possibly the chance to be mentored by Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella.

Team Hollo concurs, stating “Microsoft has played an important role in helping us gain awareness for our app, from providing us with a platform to meet and showcase our technological innovation with other like-minded individuals, access to mentors and further support post-Imagine Cup with a mentoring session by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella himself!”

With the world constantly changing, there’s more and more need for such tech innovations, and Team Hollo agrees, “Times are changing – what we create today will be beneficial for our future generation, so let us continue contributing positively to the world that we will leave behind.”.

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