A trial of the artificial intelligence (AI) mental health app, Wysa, with staff at the Northamptonshire Healthcare National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust and St Andrew’s Healthcare in the UK, found it improved their mental well-being.

The 12-week trial included 350 staff members in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) wards who used a customised version of the app.

The study was part of the collaboration agreement between NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) Midlands, NHS Midlands, and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit.

The Wysa app is an AI-based digital mental health conversational agent. It received a breakthrough device designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2021.

The app was evaluated in a randomised clinical trial by the Imperial College, UK with a UK Government grant for AI in healthcare.

The trial arose due to an increased need for mental health support for NHS staff. According to the Autumn 2022 NHS Staff Survey, approximately a third of the NHS staff are experiencing burnout and 79% of the staff are considering quitting the NHS.

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By GlobalData

The trial evaluated the NHS staff’s mental health by using questionnaires, in-app data, and post-app use focus groups.

Anxiety, confidence, sleep, and motivation were identified to be the biggest stressors. The participants had an average of 5.4 sessions on Wysa, consisting of mood monitoring, mindfulness, sleep and thought logs.

Regarding the app usage, Katie Bedford, Business Support Officer at Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust stated: “Our staff appreciated this opportunity to trial the free digital wellbeing app and to share their feedback – the sleep support pack was popular and well recommended by our staff.”

AI is expected to be a major driver of medical growth, with the NHS pledging $26.7m to fund AI technology development in disease diagnosis and treatment.

Mental health technologies have been using AI, especially AI-led cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques, to develop well-being apps. The regulated medical app market is poised for rapid growth, which GlobalData predicts to value at $12.1bn by 2030.