Why digital mental health investment may shift toward severe illness

Digital health investment has slowed to date this 12 months following blockbuster funding in 2021. Mental and behavioral health startups, which drew loads of investor {dollars} within the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, aren’t immune from the downturn. 
There was lots of hype surrounding digital mental health instruments in the course of the pandemic, and quite a lot of startups centered on lower-acuity circumstances like nervousness, despair and stress. 
Now may be the time for digital health firms treating extra severe mental diseases, like OCD and consuming problems, Chrissy Farr, principal investor and health tech lead at OMERS Ventures, stated throughout a panel dialogue at Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech 2022. 
“I feel these firms will do fairly properly within the coming years, as a result of it is a area that has not been invested in in the identical approach,” she stated. 
Alyssa Jaffee, companion at 7wireVentures, stated many gamers bought began in lower-acuity circumstances as a result of it was simpler to construct. However, it may be troublesome for startups to broaden into extra severe circumstances as these populations have completely different wants and suppliers may be scarce. 
“What I might predict, and what we’re beginning to see, is taking lots of these SMI [serious mental illness] gamers, the place the majority of the fee is proving these outcomes, and seeing a few of these gamers getting acquired or these gamers being the acquirers as they faucet out to a number of the lower-acuity circumstances,” she stated. 
There’s already been some consolidation amongst direct-to-consumer (DTC) instruments, stated Deena Shakir, companion at Lux Capital. But even amongst employer-focused instruments, there are solely so many that may be evaluated successfully.
“I feel extra complete options or integrations of mental health options inside different platforms will proceed to be a development that we’ll see, even when it isn’t essentially by way of M&A,” she stated. “In normal, extra built-in care goes to be higher care. And I feel we’ll in all probability see some artistic options, even perhaps coming by way of on the payer aspect.”
However, there nonetheless aren’t sufficient mental health professionals to satisfy the demand for care. Aike Ho, companion at ACME Capital, famous that many sufferers, no matter acuity degree, nonetheless wrestle to search out or afford care, even when they dwell in city markets the place suppliers are extra plentiful. 
But startups shouldn’t be pursuing progress in any respect prices, she stated. One specter looming over the digital mental health area is Cerebral, which has confronted rising controversy over its prescribing practices and a federal investigation for attainable violations of the Controlled Substances Act. 
Ho argues that high quality will stay an necessary issue for DTC firms, permitting them to ultimately broaden with employers and payers. 
“I’m nonetheless an enormous proponent of direct-to-consumer as a result of, in some methods, I feel direct-to-consumer firms yield significantly better merchandise for the sufferers,” she stated. “I feel it is simple to get away with a foul product whenever you’re promoting to employers. Because you are getting paid by the employer, whereas the shoppers, the sufferers who’re utilizing it, the staff, do not actually have a say or accountability within the product itself.”
Jaffee stated she sees pluses and minuses to the DTC method, as the patron expertise is efficacious, however sufferers may not be capable of choose medical high quality as precisely. Meanwhile, most healthcare prices nonetheless land with health plans and employers. 
“But lots of firms will elevate their seed, possibly their [Series] A off the DTC mannequin. Then they’re going to attempt to elevate the B, the C, saying, ‘Hey, have a look at this promise that we are able to construct. Now, we will promote to the health plans.’ And it is actually not one thing {that a} health plan goes to need to incorporate due to how the unique basis was constructed,” she stated. 
“So, there’s bought to be the steadiness of how are you going to unlock the majority of the {dollars} whereas nonetheless sustaining the integrity of the patron expertise because it pertains to behavioral health.”


Recommended For You