Groundbreaking machine learning algorithm accurately predicts mental health crises

  • Koa Health has developed an algorithm that accurately predicts instances of mental health crises

  • The study, a first of its kind in the UK, was run alongside Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust using data collected over seven years anonymised for use

  • Koa Health has been able to correctly predict more than half of crises 28 days in advance, which proved clinically valuable in 64% of cases

  • Such technology, if deployed in a clinical setting, could allow for early intervention and more favourable outcomes.

Koa Health
Publish Date

London, 17 May, 2022: Koa Health, a leading global provider of digital mental healthcare solutions, and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, today announced the results of a groundbreaking machine learning algorithm that has accurately predicted mental health crises in a real world NHS setting. The results of the study suggest that such technology could allow for early intervention and improve patient outcomes.

Koa Health developed a machine learning model that uses anonymised electronic health records to continuously monitor patients for risk of a mental health crisis. The model has been found to correctly predict more than half of the crises 28 days in advance, without a considerable false positive rate. A following six-month study evaluated Koa Health’s algorithm’s use in clinical practice. In as many as 64% of cases, the model proved clinically valuable, either in terms of managing caseloads or mitigating the risk of crisis.

Results of the study come during Mental Health Awareness Month and follow the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week which acknowledged the nearly one billion people worldwide who live with a mental disorder. With the global mental health emergency considerably exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems face a growing demand for mental health services and seek solutions to allow for preventative measures. Koa Health is exploring the incorporation of crisis prediction into its comprehensive mental health service as part of its aim to use technology to radically improve access to high quality support for mental health. The next step is to validate the model in other health systems, and to undertake the larger scale studies that will be required to obtain regulatory approval.

Dr. Oliver Harrison, CEO Koa Health says, “Working as an NHS psychiatrist, I saw too many people arrive in our services through the Accident and Emergency Department. By the time we saw them, they were usually very sick, and had often experienced problems with their relationships, finances, employment and housing. Putting the pieces back together was almost always expensive, time-consuming, and painful for the people involved.  We were delighted to be chosen as a Wave 1 NHS Test Bed to partner with Birmingham and Solihull NHS Mental Health Foundation Trust.  We shared a vision of moving from reactive care - driven by crisis - to proactive care - driven by prediction and prevention.  We have delivered outstanding results in this trial and look forward to continuing the development work.  We believe this is the future of mental healthcare in the UK and worldwide.”

Dr. Aleksandar Matic, Koa Health’s R&D Director says, ”Prevention is widely seen as the holy grail of treating mental health problems. Using AI to predict mental health crises can enable timely and proactive instead of reactive interventions to mitigate or prevent mental health crises and truly help both patients and healthcare systems. We were so excited when the results from the clinical implementation of our model suggested that our predictions may have indeed prevented more serious symptoms. Providing the right intervention at the right time sits at the core of Koa’s approach.”


Notes to editors

The study has now been formally published in Nature Medicine and can be found here.

About the Study

The study – the results of which have now been published in the journal Nature Medicine – was conducted by Koa Health using anonymised electronic health record data* collected over seven years (2012–2018) from 17,122 patients. Using the data, Koa Health was able to develop a unique machine learning algorithm which it used to evaluate how accurately it could continuously predict the risk of a mental health crisis (defined as “the onset of severe symptoms that require substantial healthcare resources) over a 28 day period.

Koa Health went on to evaluate the crisis prediction algorithm in clinical practice from November 2018 to May 2019. The crisis predictions were delivered on a biweekly basis to 60 clinicians, who then evaluated whether and how such predictions helped them manage caseload priorities and mitigate the risk of crisis. Those clinicians reported the predictions to be clinically valuable in 64% of cases.

*The anonymised data remained on the Trust’s servers, which are based in Birmingham at BSMHFT headquarters, and all analysis was completed there. All data sharing between companies was bound by EU, UK and Spanish Data Protection Laws, as well as legal contracts and governance processes. The Health Research Authority (HRA) approved the study and ensured that all NHS research governance requirements were met and that patients and public interests were protected.


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About Koa Health

Koa Health is the leading global provider offering evidence-based, personalised, integrated solutions and services that deliver mental health for everyone. Available to more than 3 million users worldwide, Koa Health addresses a vast spectrum of mental health needs – from improving wellbeing to supporting treatment for the most prolific disorders. Backed by investors such as Telefónica, a consortium advised by Ancora Finance Group, Wellington Partners Life Sciences, and MTIP, Koa Health leverages deep clinical expertise, research and technology to deliver effective and accessible care that adapts to users’ unique circumstances, leading to lasting behaviour change and positive health outcomes. Koa Health partners with employers, health plans, health systems and providers around the world with its headquarters in the Netherlands and operations in Boston, London and Barcelona.

About Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust provides a comprehensive mental healthcare service for residents of Birmingham and Solihull, and a range of specialist mental health services to communities across the West Midlands and beyond.

The Trust operates out of more than 40 sites, serves a culturally and socially diverse population of 1.3 million spread over 172 square miles, has an income of more than £240million and a dedicated workforce of around 4,000 staff.

A wide range of local and regional services and partnerships covering inpatient, community and specialist mental healthcare make it one of the most innovative and complex mental health foundation trusts in the country.

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