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Pitching to Change Mental Healthcare

Submissions are currently open for the next Psychiatry Innovation Lab, which will be hosted at the American Psychiatric Association’s [APA] conference in Washington DC on October 8th. This is the second iteration of the Psychiatry Innovation Lab, which aims to identify and accelerate new ideas for changing mental health care delivery.

Dr. Nina Vasan is the founder of the Psychiatry Innovation Lab, as well as a psychiatrist at Stanford University and the author of Do Good Well, a guide to social innovation. Vasan describes the lab as “Shark Tank meets Extreme Home Makeover for mental health,” in that participants both pitch ideas work to actually build them. “We’re trying to provide mental health innovators the education, resources, and community they need to turn their idea into an impactful solution,” Vasan says.

Dr. Nina Vasan

Dr. Nina Vasan

The Psychiatry Innovation Lab accepts pitches on APA’s website, and the top seven ideas will be selected to make five minute pitches to a judging panel at the conference in DC. Additionally, ten wildcard finalists will give one-minute pitches, before the audience picks which one they’d like to see developed further. Then, after receiving feedback from the judges as well as audience members, the finalists and the audience selected wildcard pick will work in teams with the audience members and experts to improve their idea. At the end, they repitch their solution, after which winners are selected.

Vasan says the Psychiatry Innovation Lab is unique because it welcomes participants from multiple fields. Anyone with an idea they’re passionate about can submit to the Lab. “In addition to seeking finalists, the Lab is looking for ‘Innovation Leaders’,” Vasan says. “[These are] people who will be selected to participate for their unique expertise and be given free admission by the APA. The Lab aims to include entrepreneurs, investors, administrators, engineers, educators, patients, and advocates,” she says.  Anyone interested in being an Innovation Leader should apply on the website before September 15.

Vasan says that she’s looking for several key criteria in the submissions. “[The first is] identification of an important problem, the potential impact of the solution, and a reasonable business model,” she says. “Ideas can be at any stage in development, and [I] encourage applicants to think creatively about the future of mental health.” All applicants are required to submit a 1-page written application and a short YouTube video pitch.

But she also stresses that the most important work gets done at the Lab itself. Vasan individually coaches each of the finalists before the event, and the finalists get personalized feedback during the course of the Lab and after.

“We’ll be educating participants on the Do Good Well Method, teaching what makes innovative solutions work,” Vasan says. “The key values we’ll be promoting are from the Do Good Well Method: ‘do what works, work together, and make it last’, helping them develop solutions that are effective, collaborative, and sustainable,” she says. “Measurement is especially important, as it has been absent from a lot of existing efforts trying to be innovative. We will emphasize measuring the outcomes that matter. You hear a lot of vanity metrics, such as we got 10,000 people to sign up for our app. That’s great, but it doesn’t actually measure if you made an impact on mental health and if the people using your product or service are getting better!

Vasan says it’s critical at the early stages for people to be thinking about what outcomes they want to measure and how to design their product so it’s built around those measurements.

While the Psychiatry Innovation Lab has currently only been implemented as part of APA conferences, Vasan is currently aiming to expand it into something larger and more impactful. “I’m building a leadership team that is committed to creating a community of mental health innovators,” she says.  “We want to provide the tools and resources necessary to accelerate great ideas after these events, so that efforts are continued and sustainable.”

Submissions for the Psychiatry Innovation Lab are open until September 15th.

Casey Nugent

Casey Nugent

    Casey Nugent is an editorial intern for MedTech Boston. She’s currently working on her BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College in Boston. Outside of working at MedTech Boston, Casey enjoys drinking coffee, going to the theater, goofing around with friends, and hanging out with dogs.

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