AI-The Sky's the Limit

Posted by GVT Admin on Jun 4, 2024 12:23:24 PM

AI and Social work

AI promises to revolutionize the way the world works by using computer systems to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as learning from experience, reasoning, problem-solving and understanding natural language. For most social workers, however, getting a handle on what AI is and what it might possibly mean to their lives and social work practice is like trying to imagine a color they’ve never seen before or a sound they’ve never heard. Let’s look at some social workers who have tried to discover AI’s potential power in their work.

A Work Tool

“For social work, what’s happening with ChatGPT is both frightening and exciting,” says Lauri Goldkind, PhD, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Social Service at Fordham University and editor in chief of the Journal of Technology in Human Services Data Justice Collective. “Social workers need to engage with it with a critical lens. Be excited, curious — and skeptical...It opens a window to explore new possibilities,” she says. “Examples of questions to ask ourselves are, ‘How many more clients could I see if I used it? How many other things could I do?"

A Teaching Tool

Karen Magruder, a social work instructor at the University of Texas in Arlington, has adopted ChatGPT to assist her in class preparation. Utilizing ChatGPT, she has generated case studies for discussion in her course. “It’s been really helpful for saving me a lot of time and legwork and generating that type of content that then I use with students,” Magruder said.

Magruder incorporated ChatGPT into her cognitive behavioral therapy course where she posed questions to ChatGPT and had her students analyze its responses in small groups. “They had to be able to say what’s accurate and support that with empirical research,” she said.

According to Magruder, ChatGPT has stimulated critical thinking among her students by encouraging them to delve deeper into their evaluation and analysis. It also enabled her to simulate interactions with clients on a tele-health platform by asking ChatGPT to play the role of a client with a particular issue. Students were then able to interact with it in real time.

A Research Tool

Social work researchers have begun engaging with AI and data science to help them illuminate better ways to address many familiar social concerns, including poverty, racial inequities, and mental health.

For example:

  • Can data analytics and AI help social workers pinpoint households where children are at a higher risk of mistreatment?
  • Can understanding the experience of vast numbers of individuals who are out on parole help identify effective ways to support their success in the community?

A Suicide Prevention Tool

Jessica Riberio and Joseph Franklin, along with Colin Walsh, MD, MA, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, successfully accessed a massive data repository containing the electronic health records of about 2 million patients in Tennessee. The project was the largest research study of its kind in history, a “huge opportunity,” Ribeiro says. The team combed through the electronic health records, which were anonymous, and identified more than 3,200 people who had attempted suicide.

Having that information was crucial; it contained detailed medical histories of thousands of people leading up to their suicide attempts. Using machine learning to examine all those details, the algorithms were able to “learn” which combination of factors in the records could most accurately predict future suicide attempts.

“The machine learns the optimal combination of risk factors,” Ribeiro says. “What really matters is how this algorithm and these variables interact with one another as a whole. This kind of work lets us apply algorithms that can consider hundreds of data points in someone’s medical record and potentially reduce them to clinically meaningful information. Just like you get a cardiovascular risk score, you would get a suicide risk score that is informative for clinicians and helps direct them on what steps to take next."

The Sky’s The Limit

All of these “early adopters” agree that with the power of AI, the sky’s the limit.


Topics: Technology Speak

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