Suicide prevention gets smarter with NeuroFlow’s AI tools
5 mins read

Suicide prevention gets smarter with NeuroFlow’s AI tools

Suicide rates are rising. Nearly 50,000 people committed suicide in 2022, up 3% from the previous year, according to the CDC, and up 36% since 2000. Suicide is not only traumatic, it’s costly. Between 2015 and 2020, suicide and self-harm cost an average of $510 billion per year.

However, the healthcare system is poorly equipped to prevent suicide. Physicians and healthcare workers are limited by the lack of technology to manage suicide risk. Typically, if someone needs help with a mental or emotional disorder, they are assessed in a doctor’s office to assess their risk of suicide. One such assessment is the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), which measures a person’s level of depression and ends with a question about how often they think about self-harm or suicide. If a patient does not return, doctors have no way of understanding how the patient is feeling or determining who is at high risk for further care. It is easy for patients to overlook this situation. Amid the growing number of

Christopher Molaro wants to change that with AI. In 2017, he founded NeuroFlow, a technology platform that behavioral health providers can use to track their patients and assess suicide risk. Molaro, who served in Iraq, decided to focus on suicide prevention after one of his comrades died by suicide.

“We felt it was a failure of leadership – we had survived 12 months of fighting and then someone died at home,” he said.

Suicide prevention gets smarter with NeuroFlow’s AI tools
Christopher Molaro (Photo: NeuroFlow)

Patients enrolled in NeuroFlow through their health insurer have access to an app where they receive the PHQ-9 and other assessments such as the GAD-7 for anxiety, which their clinician deems necessary at regular intervals, and can also keep a journal. To encourage engagement, the app rewards users with points that can be redeemed for gift cards (depending on the provider) whenever they log mood or sleep, answer questionnaires, add journal entries, and complete modules.

NeuroFlow can use natural language processing to analyze journal entries for increased risk of suicide in a patient. In the background, healthcare providers see a dashboard listing all of their patients. NeuroFlow analyzes patient data from assessments and journal entries and can notify providers about patients in urgent need or changes in a patient’s mental state.

Since 2021, insurer Prudential has been using NeuroFlow’s capabilities to power a suicide prevention program that lets patients receiving disability benefits track their sleep, mood, and pain levels. Prudential’s case managers received alerts when someone was at risk for a mental health crisis, and could then contact the patient about next steps, including therapy or a local hospital.

Since the program began, NeuroFlow has notified Prudential of 1,200 people at risk of suicide and has enabled interventions that helped reduce depression by 34% after the alert was triggered. “The disabled population is particularly vulnerable to mental health issues,” said Dr. Kristin Tugman, vice president of holistic wellness at Prudential Fast company via email. “We were able to meet them where they were, in their needs, and provide them with meaningful resources during a difficult time.”

Beyond suicide prevention, NeuroFlow customers are helping explore other ways to use the platform to improve mental health care delivery. Behavioral health provider Magellan Healthcare was an early investor in NeuroFlow, contributing $20 million to a Series B round in 2021. That’s when Magellan began using the tool as it transitioned toward a collaborative care model that allows the patient’s care team—the psychiatrist, primary care provider, and case manager—to share information and communicate with each other about the patient.

“We couldn’t scale this quickly before NeuroFlow because we didn’t have the technology,” said Dr. Caroline Carney, chief medical officer at Magellan. She noted that psychiatrists are often booked and hard to get in. In a collaborative care model, a psychiatrist can recommend treatment plans to a primary care physician, who can then write a prescription for the patient.

“With NeuroFlow, we can screen and identify problems more effectively and refer patients to care earlier,” says Dr. Carney. Last year, Magellan partnered with NeuroFlow to create a platform of cognitive behavioral therapy programs aimed at improving mood, mindfulness, and sleep. They found that enrollment was 124% higher than previous programs, with a 41% reduction in anxiety scores and a 24% reduction in depression scores based on PHQ-9 scores. In March, Magellan created a similar program for teens ages 13 to 17.

According to Molaro, in 2023, NeuroFlow notified its customers of 33,000 people who were at risk of suicide, who he says might have otherwise slipped through the cracks in the health care system. NeuroFlow is now available in all fifty states and has 15 million lives subscribed.

“A lot of this isn’t new,” Molaro said. “It’s about how to make peer-reviewed clinical assessments more engaging and scalable. The triple bottom line is improving people’s outcomes, reducing costs and making them sustainable by freeing up resources.”

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