Now a virtual therapist

“Ellie” the Virtual Analyst has it right down to the  ‘uh-huhs’  in responding to her patients, but she really excels at taking the measure of body language. According to the NPR interview with University of Southern California’s (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies’ lead developers, psychologist Albert “Skip” Rizzo and computer scientist Louis-Philippe Morency, “Ellie tracks and analyzes around 60 different features — various body and facial movements, and different aspects of the voice. The theory of all this is that a detailed analysis of those movements and vocal features can give us new insights into people who are struggling with emotional issues. The body, face and voice express things that words sometimes obscure.” Movement is tracked by Microsoft Kinect, voice by a microphone. This is the flip side of their original telementalhealth research from last year with simulations of virtual patients for training psychiatric residents [TTA 14 Aug] and PTSD assessment [TTA 28 Oct 11]. Like both of these, this was originally commissioned by the US Department of Defense for PTSD diagnosis, so Ellie provides a report at the end of each session. Your Editor also thinks there’s commercialization potential in the growing category of ‘couch apps’. [TTA 11 MayIf Your Shrink Is A Bot, How Do You Respond?

HealthSpot, Netsmart ally for telemedicine kiosks

HealthSpot, which debuted its staffed telemedicine/telehealth Stations at CES 2013 (and this Editor previewed at CES New York in November), is partnering with behavioral health EHR/practice/clinical case management software provider Netsmart to add that capability to its kiosk consults. Announced at ATA yesterday, the MedCityNews article is sketchy on exactly how this will be integrated–will it be an option or will select kiosks be dedicated to behavioral health only–but this is likely a first for telementalhealth (another term in our lexicon!) Kiosk placements can be especially useful in rural areas which have a paucity of mental health/psychiatric providers (see TTA on Forefront TeleCare’s ATA announcement). It also follows this year’s ATA theme of telemedicine to more effectively serve rural US areas. HealthSpot also announced a pilot with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in its hometown of Columbus, Ohio; their CEO claims it has orders for 150 units in hand for its now three health system partners. Surprisingly, as of April they are already at Series C funding with a $10.4 million financing (of a $20 million offering) from giant Cardinal Health and other private investors.