A new generation of digital platforms could make it easier for patients with behavioral health issues to access therapy, according to a panel of industry entrepreneurs at Healthegy’s Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit in Boston.
Panelists agreed that the current system, which largely places the responsibility of finding a mental health provider on the shoulders of the patient, needs to be transformed.
“The current state is fragmented and out of the hands of the provider. It’s been this consumer-driven entity without any kind of resources to help assist them,” said Daniel Brown, chief medical officer of Steward Healthcare Network.
“It’s just a very frustrating and low-yield process for patients who are possibly not motivated to reach out for assistance based on their current situation and behavioral health issue,” he added.
Oren Frank, co-founder and chief executive officer of Talkspace, said he saw the “barriers of entry” for patients seeking therapy as being first and foremost cost, followed by convenience, stigmatization, and difficulty finding an appropriate therapist. He noted that around 50% of patients who seek out therapy generally drop out after their second meeting.
Other panelists pointed out that behavioral issues often make it difficult for patients to seek out or follow through with therapy. As a result, digital platform developers will need to figure out how to engage patients suffering from a variety of mental health disorders.
Megan Oser, director of research for Lantern, used anxiety disorder as an example. “A hallmark feature of anxiety is difficulty with decision making and a low tolerance for uncertainty, so they’re going to have a harder time making this decision, making this leap to engage with the program. So, that’s another hurdle we have to think about.”
Panelists also outlined how their respective companies are tackling issues of engagement and barriers to entry.
Talkspace, for example, has set up a national network of licensed psychotherapists who provide therapy primarily through texting, although video and synchronous meetings are also available. Frank said therapy through Talkspace generally achieves efficacy within 12 to 14 weeks and has a penetration rate of about 10%.
“If you compare it in terms of penetration and efficacy to traditional therapy, it’s about three times more effective for the money,” he pointed out.
Lantern, meanwhile, provides cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a first-line treatment for anxiety and depression, through text-based coaching. Lantern’s Oser said preliminary engagement rates have been as high as 70%, and that the company plans to roll out the service to primary care provider (PCP), university, and employer-based settings.
Taking a slightly different approach, Quartet has focused on leveraging the PCP/patient relationship through its “virtual collaborative care” platform, which can also be used in conjunction with therapy platforms such as those by Talkspace or Lantern.
“Most PCP physicians we’ve talked to … don’t even ask the question about screening for behavioral health, depression, or anxiety because once they do, they don’t know what to do about it,” said Quartet’s chief science officer, David Wennberg. “Our model is to facilitate and lubricate communication between the patient, the physician, and the behavioral health provider in a way that they can all get on the same game plan and work together.”
Held on November 2 in Boston, the Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit, chaired by Robert Mittendorff, MD, MBA, of Norwest Venture Partners, and Bill Geary of Flare Capital, brought together leading innovators, investors, and industry executives to share their valuable insights on the future of health care.
Contributed by Val Kennedy
David Wennberg, MD, MPH
David Wennberg, MD, MPH, most recently served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Northern New England Accountable Care Collaborative (NNEACC), which supported leading ACOs in their journey from fee-for-service to value-based care through advanced SaaS and DaaS solutions.