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Julian De Freitas & I. Glenn Cohen, The health risks of generative AI-based wellness apps, 30 Nature Med. 1269 (2024).

Abstract: Artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled chatbots are increasingly being used to help people manage their mental health. Chatbots for mental health and particularly ‘wellness’ applications currently exist in a regulatory ‘gray area’. Indeed, most generative AI-powered wellness apps will not be reviewed by health regulators. However, recent findings suggest that users of these apps sometimes use them to share mental health problems and even to seek support during crises, and that the apps sometimes respond in a manner that increases the risk of harm to the user, a challenge that the current US regulatory structure is not well equipped to address. In this Perspective, we discuss the regulatory landscape and potential health risks of AI-enabled wellness apps. Although we focus on the United States, there are similar challenges for regulators across the globe. We discuss the problems that arise when AI-based wellness apps cross into medical territory and the implications for app developers and regulatory bodies, and we outline outstanding priorities for the field.