Houston FQHC to deploy AI-based mental health support at no cost

The Federally Qualified Health Center Community Health Network, operating in Brazoria, Harris and Galveston counties in Texas, has partnered with Wysa to integrate its artificial intelligence-guided mental health platform to offer adjunctive behavioral health support throughout patient care journeys and give clinicians and administrators insights.

Wysa is also being deployed at MyCHN for provider mental health support.


Digital mental health tools and AI-enabled chatbots can help patients better reach mental health professionals and clinicians from waitlist management to discharge, according to the announcement Monday.

The technologies make “accessing evidence-based care simpler,” according to Chaitali Sinha, senior vice president of healthcare and clinical development at Wysa. The stack integrates directly into hospitals’ existing workflows, offering triaging, supportive programs, companion tools and an analytics dashboard, the company said.

“Accessibility poses the greatest obstacle to patients receiving mental healthcare today, and that issue is only exacerbated in underserved communities due to increased barriers,” Sinha said in the statement. 

A conversational AI chatbot agent guides users through evidence-based cognitive-behavioral techniques such as meditation, breathing and mindfulness exercises, as well as micro-actions to help build mental resilience skills, the company said.

While the platform provides MyCHN’s clinicians and administrators with better insights into patient progress to improve outcomes and utilization, it also is available to support providers. As an anonymous solution, the AI-driven chatbot can breach stigma and provide immediate access to clinician mental health support.

Demi Minter, clinical director at MyCHN, said that the partnership provides patients and clinicians with access “wherever they are whenever they want it.”


Chatbots can drive value in automated systems that are led by the patient, according to Roeen Roashan, who is now the innovation lead of commercial innovation and development at Novo Nordisk.

In his role as a senior analyst of digital health at consulting firm IHS, Roashan told Healthcare IT News that machine learning and chatbots could be effective next-gen population health tools in specific cases.

While a significant workforce has been needed to support the virtual health technology value chain, “to truly reach scalability, certain functions of virtual healthcare must be decomposed and outsourced back to the patient,” he said, noting that an early study showed the Wysa chatbot “delivered stunning results” building mental resilience among youth. 

In that early study, “users who chatted with Wysa had a 45 percent reduction in depression, and medication adherence rose by 10x.”

A more recent study by the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at Nanyang Technological University Singapore evaluated the dialogues between Wysa and eight other chatbots and scripted user personas that were created to reflect different cultures, ages and genders, as well as different levels of depressive symptoms. 

Findings published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in December indicated that chatbots are effective in supporting self-management of depression symptoms

While the chatbots were empathetic and did not store or transfer users’ chat history or personal information, they did not, however, deliver personalized advice. Mental health chatbots would need to be improved to support those at risk of suicide as well as further evaluate the long-term effectiveness of AI-led interventions for mental health, the researchers said.

“However, these chatbots could still be a useful alternative for individuals in need, especially those who are not able to access medical help,” said researcher Dr. Laura Martinengo.

“For some people, it’s easier to talk to a machine than a human being.”


“MyCHN understands the importance of affordable, quality care that is accessible to our patients and staff at all times on multiple platforms,” said Minter in a statement. “We believe any door is the right door to access whole person care catered to individual needs for mental wellness of mind, body and spirit.”

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: afox@himss.org

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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