Researchers Test Mental Health Chatbot’s Effectiveness

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. probe / proʊb / (v) – to examine something carefully

    Health experts want to probe into the possibility of using robots as nurses.

  2. high time / haɪ taɪm / (idiom) – the right time

    It’s high time that the old library buys computers.

  3. accessible / ækˈsɛs ə bəl / (adj) – able to be obtained

    Banks are now accessible any time of the day through smartphones.

  4. integrate / ˈɪn tɪˌgreɪt / (v) – to combine two or more things to create something new

    The scientist would like to integrate robots into the transport system.

  5. ridicule / ˈrɪd ɪˌkyul / (n) – the act of making fun of someone or something in a cruel way

    People who dress differently are often victims of ridicule. 


Read the text below.

A group of researchers has recently published a study on the use of a chatbot in healthcare.

Researchers from the Stanford School of Medicine conducted an experiment using Woebot, a chatbot or a computer program that can talk to humans. Developed by Dr. Alison Darcy, Woebot provides mental health advice through Facebook Messenger.

In order to test Woebot’s effectiveness, the researchers asked their first group of participants to use Woebot. Then, they told the second group to read a self-help book on mental health. After two weeks, results showed that Woebot was able to effectively provide therapy for participants with depression. It also showed that both Woebot and the self-help book have the same effectiveness for treating anxiety.

Other chatbots and apps were also invented to focus on mental and emotional health. For instance, a chatbot called Joy uses a series of questions to probe into one’s emotional state. On the other hand, apps like Babylon and Your.MD provide health advice based on how a user feels. These apps both use a huge pool of medical information gathered by engineers and doctors.

According to chatbot developers, it is high time that medical facts and information are made easily accessible to patients.  They explained that this is possible by integrating technology into healthcare. Not only will it decrease a patient’s fear of ridicule, it will also reduce the need for paying doctors’ fees.

In contrast, some medical experts believe that chatbots cannot fully replace human doctors. They said that the skills of healthcare professionals are still very important. However, they believe that technology can support doctor-patient relationships.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Would you follow a chatbot’s mental and emotional health advice? Why or why not?
• Do you think it is possible for chatbots to replace human doctors? Why do you think so?

Discussion B

• How else can people use technology to improve their mental and emotional health?
• Aside from using technology, what can people do to improve their mental and emotional health? Explain.