June 20, 2024

Anne Lepetit, chief medical officer, Bupa Group, explains how health technology is transforming mental health management and helping more people to hit their health goals in 2024. 

The alleged most depressing day of the year, ‘Blue Monday’ falls on 15th January in 2024 – it’s also supposedly the day most new year’s resolutions will fail.

While the science behind this phenomenon is questionable – it was created as part of an advertising campaign to sell more holidays – it’s a day that’s worth mentioning as it highlights that mental health is still a serious health concern. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there has been a 13% rise in mental health conditions in the last decade.

As 2024 begins, I’m optimistic about innovative healthtech, backed by artificial intelligence (AI), that’s helping to tackle this crisis by enabling people to proactively manage their mental health, and hit their 2024 health goals.

A big part of this is the rise of clinical wearable technology, and the positive impact of connecting the data produced from them with digital health services. We are already seeing signs of this, where wearable data is analysed and organised by AI, then used by clinicians to monitor patient health.

An example from Bupa is our AI-powered mental health service that’s offered through Blua – our digital innovation platform in Spain. It uses data points such as a daily questionnaire plus exercise and sleep data, which is gathered through wearable devices to analyse a customer’s mental health. It then uses AI to provide the customer with personalised content on how to manage their mental health based on the data they’ve shared. If a customer’s mental health is consistently poor, then they will be offered an appointment with a therapist. This service is proven to detect early signs of mental health conditions and provides a good combination of digital and more traditional care management.

Bupa also offers an online service in the UK, partnering with digital mental health service JAAQ – Just Ask A Question. This resource is an online platform that uses AI to provide a safe space where users can ask Bupa doctors, and other people who have experienced mental health problems, questions at any time of day, without judgement. 

How can companies unlock AI innovation within healthcare?

We already use AI at Bupa to deliver a customer experience, for example through EyeInspect in Bupa Australia. Here Bupa Optical customers can access Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled eye tests which can also identify early signs of health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

We are also working to educated and upskill our workforce in this area. In 2022 we launched, B-Disruptive, a month-long annual campaign, open to all 80,000 of Bupa’s global employees. It was designed to educate them on generative AI and unlock their ideas to provide a better experience for customers. Google and Microsoft partnered with us on the campaign and offered a series of virtual masterclasses, workshops and coaching sessions. Following this, employees were split into global teams for a two-day hackathon with the goal of producing concepts Bupa can develop and integrate into the business. 

In 2024, we’ll be exploring more ways we can use AI to enhance patient care, drive innovation, and help people to manage their mental health in January – and throughout the year.


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