Using Digital Health Tools to Screen Children for Suicide Risk

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Dr. Lan Chi “Krysti” Vo, Medical Director of Telehealth with the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is leading the effort to develop a chatbot to screen children for suicide risk in a more efficient and scalable manner.

“Most mental health concerns, including suicidality, are first brought up in primary care, and thus suicidal screening in primary care is an important preventive measure,” Dr. Vo said. “However, primary care providers are not trained on what to do after a positive depression screen that has some suicidality. They may send low-risk patients to the already overburdened crisis centers and emergency departments. This digital health product provides actionable recommendations for primary care providers to use after a positive mental health screening by triaging patients into different levels of risk, and connecting them to the appropriate level of mental care.”

For low-risk patients, the chatbot will refer the patient to an appointment with a behavioral healthcare provider. For moderate-risk patients, the chatbot will connect the patient and primary care provider to a telepsychiatry consult via video before the patient leaves the primary care office. High-risk patients will be referred to the nearby emergency department or crisis center.

A grant from Twilio Impact Fund is supporting the work. Learn more here.