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Chatbot takes first prize in Mental Health Innovation challenge

Mar. 3, 2022, 8:52 AM

Kelli Stewart, center, discusses her ideas during last week’s Mental Health Innovation Challenge and Hackathon.
Kelli Stewart, center, discusses her ideas during last week’s Mental Health Innovation Challenge and Hackathon. (photo by Donn Jones)

by Paul Govern

A chatbot — a computer program that simulates and processes human conversation — was the winning entrant in the Mental Health Innovation Challenge and Hackathon, held Feb. 25-26 at the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt University’s innovation and design center.

Sponsored by the Vanderbilt Clinical Informatics Center in partnership with Health IT at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the event drew engineering students, nurses, medical students, Medical Center project managers and biomedical informatics graduate students. Serving as judges were Cheryl Cobb, MD, associate professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Neal Patel, MD, MPH, professor of Pediatrics and chief informatics officer with Health IT, and Charleson Bell, PhD, research assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering.

Designed to engage with behavioral health patients before and after outpatient visits, the chatbot is intended as a patient portal feature; it would triage patients and generate symptom scores and other summary information for provider review via an electronic health record dashboard. The chatbot was designed by Dennis Zhou, Daniel Kang, Ricki Calbert and Kelli Stewart.

Second place went to a mobile app that would use machine learning to identify people with high suicide risk based on data from their mobile phone and other smart devices, electronic health record and optional patient-reported outcomes. The app was designed by Pragnya Adapa, Seth Smith and Hannah Slater.

Third place went to an online platform that would use quizzes and other mental challenges to monitor cognitive decline and provide engaging activities to stimulate brain health. The platform could be used by health care teams to track memory scores. The platform, dubbed AxonBlast, was designed by Neelesh Raj, Siddharth Shah and Tahsinul Abir.

Winning teams received online shopping gift certificates.

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