Direct face-to-face interview between a psychiatrist and a patient is crucial in psychiatric evaluation, however, such traditional interviews are becoming difficult to conduct because of the infection risk in the COVID-19 era. As telepsychiatry, video interviews using internet are suggested to be useful to evaluate and assist individuals with mental disorders. However, some patients especially with social phobia, depression, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) hesitate to use even such face-to-face-like tools. Communication robots have been proposed as future assistant tools for such patients. Herein, we summarize recent advancements in robot psychiatry, and propose the benefits of communication robots in psychiatric evaluation.
Recent studies have suggested that communication robots are effective in assisting people with ASD. As a pilot trial, we herein conducted semi-structured interviews to evaluate depression and hikikomori, a form of pathological social withdrawal, using a communication robot and a psychiatrist, respectively. There was almost identical evaluation between the two. Interestingly, a person with hikikomori answered that the robot was easier to disclose.
Robots can reduce the burden of human resources and the infection risk in the COVID-19 era. Robot interview is expected to be implemented for future evaluation system in psychiatry.