According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. They affect 40 million adults, or 18.1% of the population, every year. Furthermore, anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old, putting them at a much higher risk to perform poorly in school, engage in substance abuse, and miss out on important social experiences. Even though this disorder is highly treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment, most likely due to a perceived societal stigma, with men far less likely to seek treatment.
A study done by The National Center for Telehealth & Technology entitled “mHealth for Mental Health: Integrating Smartphone Technology into Behavioral Healthcare,” suggests that mobile solutions can help those who may fear seeing psychologists in-person and can better fit diverse needs and lifestyles than traditional methods. With that said, the study also claims that mobile solutions cannot achieve everything that an in-person visit with a therapist or psychologist can. It states, “smartphone technology has the potential to make behavioral health care more accessible, efficient, and interactive for patients and can improve the delivery of evidence-based treatments. Overall, the use of smartphones and other mobile technology has many benefits for both clients and practitioners. We recommend that behavioral health researchers and clinicians consider the evaluation and use of them as part of their practice, but also keep the evolving privacy, ethical, and policy issues in mind.”
Adam Pardes, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of NeuroFlow emphasizes that mental health technology isn’t meant to replace the physical presence of therapy, but rather complement it. “I think mental health hasn’t been revolutionized in the same way through technology as those other aspects of medicine have, and in a large part that makes sense because it’s very nuanced; there’s very strong human component to it,” he says.
“I think if you can get away from the idea of trying to replace the mental health clinician with chatbots and similar things, and view technology as a way to assist mental health providers, assist mental health patients, engage them; that technology can play a really important role in making sure clients don’t drop out, making sure that they are able to self-manage and generalize the skills that they are learning and apply therapy to their everyday lives.”
Here are the top tech startups addressing mental illness in the US today:
Quartet is a New York based startup that has raised a $45M Series C, announced on January 3, 2018. The company seeks to easily facilitate care between the providers and mental health patients for better physical outcomes. Quartet uses algorithms to connect mental health patients with a vast network of providers and health systems to choose the best care possible. While finding the right treatment options is often daunting for patients, Quartet’s platform helps providers facilitate this process with ease. Their tech platform helps providers choose the optimal mental health treatment for their patients. Providers can also use the platform to collaborate and build a community with each other through treatment plans, combined resources, and the ability to monitor progress.
Dr. David Wennberg, Chief Science Officer at Quartet says, “Quartet was founded to bridge the long-standing gap between mental and physical healthcare delivery. We achieve this by leveraging innovative technology, machine-learning and data-driven recommendations to identify high-risk patients, especially those with co-morbid issues. From there, we work with primary care doctors to connect these patients to the appropriate behavioral health care within our vetted actual and virtual network, so they can get the personalized care they need.”
Lyra Health is a Burlingame, CA based startup that has raised a $45M Series B announced on May 7, 2018. The startup aims to use technology to help personalize the experience of those seeking help for mental illnesses. The company was created to address the difficulty patients face in finding the right care. Patients suffering from mental illness will often give up treatments after one session because of an initial feeling of disconnect. Lyra seeks to help patients find the best care possible for their unique situations. The company’s matching solution helps patients identify their clinical needs and their treatment preferences, in order to suggest the best evidence based treatment for the individual patient at a nearby facility. Treatment may include psychotherapy, medication or traditional therapy. Lyra partners with employers to offer this service for many companies, which helps support and improve workforce behavioral health and emotional well-being.
Regroup is a Chicago based startup that has raised a $6M Series A, announced on June 15, 2017. The startup works directly with existing healthcare facilities to provide videochat therapy via their secure, HIPAA compliant, virtual care platform, RegroupConnect. The Regroup clinicians can order labs and prescriptions for patients, record data in the existing facilities’ EHRs, and work with payers for easy reimbursement and billing. The Regroup clinicians are able to coordinate directly with the facility’s staff through the program for seamless integration of mental and physical healthcare.
David Cohn, Founder and CEO says, “Regroup is on a mission to solve the growing and severe mental health shortage gap that exists in the United States. We use a combination of high-quality clinicians, innovative product technology and first-in-class service to serve our healthcare entity partners and their patient populations. We are really proud of the work we do.”
Learn to Live, Inc is a Eden Prairie, Minnesota based startup that has raised a $4.3M Seed Round announced on March 2, 2018. The startup has created an online cognitive behavioral therapy program that offers help for social anxiety, depression, stress, worry, and insomnia. The site seeks to help those who are struggling to find the right practitioner or haven’t seen success with traditional self-help methods. The site offers programs and exercises at home to address patient needs and track their progress. Furthermore, the site gives feedback on the level of depression or anxiety the patient is facing. The site also offers patients an option to enlist family and friends to support them through their recovery process. The program is run by Dr. Russell Morfitt, who also manages a cognitive behavioral therapy clinic for anxiety in Minnesota.4. Stop, Breathe & Think
Stop, Breathe, & Think is a Santa Monica, CA based startup that raised a $2.4M Seed Round, announced on May 9, 2017. The app targets users under 25 years old who are suffering from anxiety; it provides short mindfulness exercises that allow users to check in with their emotions, meditate, and broaden their perspectives. The mobile application was born from Tools for Peace, a non-profit dedicated to teaching the skills of mindfulness and meditation to inner-city teens and continues to give part of their revenue to support TFP. The app lowered anxiety for 41% of users after just 10 sessions, and after 100 sessions, only 28% of users reported still feeling anxious. 78% of users reported feeling predominantly positive after their first session, and baseline sentiment continues to improve over time and length of usage.
Julie Campistron, CEO of Stop, Breathe & Think says, ” In an age of such widespread anxiety, especially with younger generations, we are thrilled that our Stop Breathe & Think users are experiencing this sustained improvement in their sense of wellbeing, and excited about what this data says about the general efficacy of long-term emotional wellness programs. We continue to explore factors that contribute to people’s sense of wellbeing and how they might impact their experience with the app.”
NeuroFlow is a Philadelphia, PA based startup that has raised a $1.25M Seed Round, announced on October 18, 2017. It is a mobile application and website that is designed to better assess, track, and engage clients in the time spent between therapy sessions. Studies show that in between sessions is when those suffering from mental illness are most likely to struggle. NeuroFlow fills in this gap with digital exercises which positively reinforce self-care. Users are assigned homework such as journal entries, rating scales, and CBT style worksheets. Automated nudges help remind users to complete assignments. The company provides wireless biometric sensors to measure real-time emotional states like stress during exposure therapy, or relaxation during guided breathing exercises.
Adam Pardes, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer says, “Longer term, our goal is to be the standard of care, so to speak, for mental health. Everyone who uses NeuroFlow in their practice can help engage their patients with monitored homework assignments and with real time physiology assessments. We think this could be something that’s in every psychologist’s office in the country.”
Header Image: Stop, Breathe, & Think App Screenshots
Leah D’Sa is a Junior studying Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College. She is currently a copyeditor for the school newspaper the Berkeley Beacon as well as Poetry Editor for the literary magazine the Emerson Review. She is looking to begin her career with health technology writing as she seeks to combine her lifelong love of writing and science.
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