Innovation and Access in Mental Health Care

The behavioral health tech industry is innovating like never before – and it is not slowing down!


Our Founder & CEO, Mainul Mondal along with our partners, Leslie Witt from Headspace Health and Tanzeem Choudhury from UnitedHealth Group / OptumLabs, spoke with the Going Digital Behavioral Health Tech Conference founder Solome Tibebu on the subject at the recent conference.


While their conversation went deep into many important topics, the focus was on access and how technology can play an important role in closing gaps in mental health care with personalized digital solutions – what has been successful to date and where we are ripe for innovation.


You can view the full conversation here:


Some of our favorite takeaways from these inspiring thought leaders are below.


It’s important to have choices in mental health care


“What works for me may not work for you. Beyond just the issues of access and inclusivity, what we're really looking to do is ensure that you have the diversity of options that make it so that you can have a range of treatment that is right for you.” ~ Leslie


Technology can be an objective source to breaking down stigma and misconceptions in mental health


“Stigma and misconception if you define it -- is the lack of information and understanding –the same way darkness is the lack of light. I think we have to be very inclusive and ethical about how we build technology and who is building the technology. We want the folks who are building technology to be a good representation of the people they are going to serve.” ~ Mainul


Digital health can bridge care gaps and expand access to mental healthcare


“Reducing stigma, improving measurement and driving measurement based care, and also connecting the patient and provider in a much more seamless and universal way.” Tanzeem


We are especially concerned about mental healthcare access for adolescents


“It’s simple. Adolescent Health. We have to go early. We as human beings need to be there for our kids and our community. There are remarkable stats –by the time you show symptoms and the time you’ve been diagnosed and are part of the care pathway, it’s about 11 years. That’s over a decade that we could have an impact on someone. That’s unacceptable, that's where we are. If you look at the other staggering data points, 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins at age 14. 75% by age 24.” ~ Mainul


“You cannot escape the fact that we have a youth adolescent mental health crisis. And when I say we, I don't just mean the us, this is a global reality. It was true before COVID and it amplified during COVID and it ends up being one of those few areas that actually has the ability to bridge political divides and come together in order to actually pose new solutions.” ~ Leslie


What each stakeholder - academia research, large enterprises, startups - needs to know about delivering high quality technology for mental healthcare


“These communities have been fragmented and there are unique contributions that have to be stitched together to build something that is rigorous, validated, but also scalable and engaging. I think there are different communities that do different parts of it well…It's really important to bring these communities together so that there is a flow of information and I think there are different groups that are better suited for doing certain pieces of this well. But right now, I think one of the challenges is that we don't have that many venues or ways to actually foster that communication and information flow… We are partnering with academics and we are partnering with startups to try to add some of that glue. I think that really is needed to make something that's robust and evidence based as well as engaging and relevant for the population that we want to target.” ~ Tanzeem


Technology can close care gaps today even though so much is still inaccessible without virtual support


“Making access more convenient, bringing down the cost of care, really trying to optimize supply and demand. That sounds simple, but in a place where expert human services are in such radical shortage, care innovation, like what we brought to life through text based coaching with Ginger… I think the work that Mainul is doing in particular is so exciting - technology as a means of delivering deep efficacy in diagnostic evaluation, just in timeness, and then the feedback loop to say was this version of care actually successful in delivering positive outcomes and how do we ingest that feedback loop to continuously improve.” ~ Leslie


Digital technology can impact equitable and culturally sensitive care


“We need technology to be representative of the population we’re serving and that the people who are actually making this technology actually understand who we are building this for. That’s why going back to our partnership with Headspace Health is all about understanding people, understanding how we can help, understanding if care gaps are being resolved and what care paths are actually working. If this can happen we can drive quality and equitable care for all.” ~ Mainul


Measurement and better engagement play a role in the use of technology


“The measurement piece has been severely lacking when it comes to mental health… but everything we do with our technology is a measurement and we can extract measurements relevant to mental health. Voice is a measurement. How we sleep is a measurement. Changes in the rate we walk is a measurement. These are relevant; like the psychomotor changes a big factor in mental health. When someone is depressed, they slow down when they're talking and they slow down when they're walking.” ~ Tanzeem


We can keep digital front doors fun, engaging and trustworthy


If we can measure things. It creates a baseline from which we can communicate” ~ Mainul


“I think we need to go away from words like “patient portal” and really think about human first and consumer first – meet people where they are.” ~ Mainul


AI can influence access to mental healthcare


“Early measurement and where you can predict changes in mental health early on… because we often talk about this model of stepped care in mental health. That you get the care that's stepping based on your level of severity, but we need to kind of match that up with stepped measurement and stepped intervention and technology and AI, and can play a big role in delivering that.” ~ Tanzeem


“AI - Deep learning will only work if people are engaged, and it goes back to evidence and robustness –only work if people are engaging with it. We see a lot of innovations coming up –Tanzeems company and Leslie’s company and our company –so how we come together to make it relevant and engaging the same way we’ve made physical health engaging for years.” ~ Mainul


“I think that that ability to dial up and dial down the way in which you engage and are relevant is critical.” ~ Leslie


We must address existing infrastructure and policy


“I think we have to collectively band together and change some of the regulatory policies that are blockers to care. It's, I think, unsustainable and actually unethical that we have a futile state based system that provides many more impediments to access than already exists just through the limited human supply.” ~ Leslie


Multidisciplinary partners are important in expanding access to seamless care


Healthcare is about relationships and understanding each other and that is only possible if all of us come together and be truthful about where we are and really be diligent about how you move care forward and meet people where they are.” ~ Mainul


There’s hope for a future with access to scalable quality healthcare


“I think that mental health should be for everyone. For every single town, city, no matter how old you are – from whatever demographic you are – my belief is that Mental Health is not for everyone yet and we need to make that happen, and I think that is why folks like Tanzeem and Leslie are so important to drive that forward with us.” ~ Mainul