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Can AI Technology Help Prevent Suicide In Veterans And What Are The Ethical Considerations?




Veterans salute for the presentation of colors during the Joint Opening Ceremony at the American Veterans (AMVETS) 75th National Convention at the Galt House on August 21, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Veterans salute for the presentation of colors during the Joint Opening Ceremony at the American Veterans (AMVETS) 75th National Convention at the Galt House on August 21, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

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Suicide rates in veterans have increased by about 30 percent since 2000. According to a recent piece in the New York Times, researchers are turning to A.I technology to try to detect veterans who are at risk in an attempt to intervene. 

A.I. technology isn’t new, but using an algorithm model to then contact people and intervene is new. It’s what the V.A. is doing with Reach Vet, a program that identifies veterans who are at high risk of suicide. When the program flags a high risk person, a coordinator then sets up an appointment for them. Researchers are watching closely to see if the program can make gains toward effective prevention methods, a difficult task for suicide. There are also ethical and privacy questions to consider when it comes to innovative technology being used clinically like this. Today on AirTalk, we discuss Reach Vet, what promise it shows in preventing suicide and more. Are you a veteran? What are your thoughts about this? Join the conversation by calling 866-893-5722. 

Guests:

Benedict Carey, science reporter for The New York Times, his piece is “Can an Algorithm Prevent Suicide?” 

Colin Walsh, M.D., assistant professor of biomedical informatics, medicine and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, he focuses on data science applied to use-cases in mental health; he tweets @CWalshMD

Jodi Halpern, M.D., professor of bioethics at UC Berkeley and co-founder of the Berkeley Group for the Ethics and Regulation of Innovative Technologies