Limbic Access is first AI chatbot to receive medical device certification in UK

The Limbic Access chatbot is already being used by a quarter of the NHS’s Talking Therapies services

6th February 2023 about a 3 minute read
"Patients often dread having to articulate their most sensitive thoughts and feelings over the phone to another human. The fact that Limbic is unashamedly an AI removes the pressure from that conversation." Dr Ross Harper, CEO, Limbic

Limbic Access, an AI chatbot that can predict mental health disorders with 93% accuracy, has been approved for medical use in the UK.

The chatbot is the first AI mental health app in the world to receive Class IIa UKCA medical device certification. (UKCA is the conformity mark that replaces the CE mark used by EU members.) The accreditation certifies the chatbot’s clinical effectiveness, safety and risk management. It also means that patients can now use Limbic Access as part of the process of self-referring to psychological therapies.

Limbic Access can classify the eight common mental health disorders treated by NHS Talking Therapies (previously known as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, or IAPT). It uses machine learning, which means that it is able to learn from each new conversation it has with a patient to improve both its accuracy and the quality of the therapeutic conversation.

Safe and clinically effective

Dr Ross Harper, co-founder and CEO of Limbic, described the certification as a “landmark moment for mental health care,” adding: “It provides strong evidence that our psychological assessment software – the first in the world to gain this level of certification – is a safe and clinically effective way to augment the therapy process within mental health services at a time when such support has never been more needed.”

The NHS’s Talking Therapies service has been experiencing a big rise in demand, with a 21.5% increase in people accessing the service in the last year. Limbic Access is already being used with 25% of Talking Therapies services, with an estimated saving of 30,000 clinical hours. The tool gathers information through a conversation with the patient and then uses that information to deliver effective triage. “The result is that clinicians are more informed ahead of appointments and can spend more time focusing on the patient; services have less admin to complete, and patients enjoy shorter wait times and faster recovery,” Harper said. “It’s win-win-win.”

The tool also benefits patients, Harper added: “It can be daunting to take the first step to accessing mental health services, and patients often dread having to articulate their most sensitive thoughts and feelings over the phone to another human. The fact that Limbic is unashamedly an AI removes the pressure from that conversation, while the warm, supportive tone of the chatbot means they still get the benefits of the human experience, just without the worry.”

Limbic says that patients who refer through Limbic Access are more likely to be put on the right treatment course early on; to receive a more reliable diagnosis; and have better recovery rates. They also have shorter waiting times for assessment and treatment and are less likely to drop out before assessment and while being treated.

In all, a total of 130,000 NHS patients have accessed psychological therapy using Limbic’s chatbot, making it the most widely used solution of its kind in the NHS.

FCC Insight

At a time when demand on NHS mental health services is at record levels, Limbic Access demonstrates the ability of AI software to relieve pressure on services through digital triage. It can also improve the patient experience by removing the need for an individual to explain their mental health problems to obtain a referral. We welcome the decision to award it accreditation for use in the NHS, and hope that others will follow.