Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, patients faced barriers getting connected with the right mental health care services. The current health crisis is exacerbating these challenges and adding new ones.
Many healthcare stakeholders fear a mental health fallout from the pandemic as a result of the stress and anxiety of facing an infectious disease outbreak and financial struggles as millions have lost jobs and steady income. There's also widespread feelings of helplessness and despair and the impact of isolation from physical distancing measures.
Behavioral health startup Quartet Health is teaming up with SilverCloud Health to expand patients' access to digital mental health services via smartphone, smartwatch, tablet, or computer.
New York City-based Quartet’s national network of care options includes virtual tele-psychiatry and tele-therapy. Through the collaboration, patients connected to care through Quartet can use SilverCloud’s computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (cCBT) tools.
SilverCloud Health's digital self-guided mental health programs provide patients with customized content programs and support to treat more than 10 specific conditions including anxiety, depression, chronic stress, sleep insomnia and grief and loss.
The collaboration helps to address ongoing access challenges as there is a shortage of mental health providers in the U.S., Quartet CEO David Wennberg, M.D. told Fierce Healthcare.
According to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation in April, 45% of survey respondents reported that the coronavirus negatively impacted their mental health, up from 32% the month prior.
Many stakeholders see a looming mental health crisis. Yet, the United States is ill-equipped to meet this demand. According to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 65% of non-metropolitan counties in the United States lack a psychiatrist, and nearly 50% of non-metropolitan counties lack a psychologist.
"You can’t train enough people fast enough to meet this demand," Wennberg said. Clinically-validated digital mental health care options are an important way to help people get the care they need, when they need it, he said.
There also is a need to expand mental health care options beyond the traditional face-to-face meeting to make it more convenient for patients and help reduce the stigma of seeking help. Digital on-demand options benefit people with transportation limitations and can help patients access support immediately, rather than wait days or weeks for an appointment with a provider, Wennberg said.
Wennberg believes telehealth and virtual mental health will become a more integrated part of overall healthcare and the pandemic has accelerated that trend.
"The first few weeks of COVID, we were supporting all the providers on our platform to be tele-enabled. Before it was about 10% providing services via video or phone and that jumped to 85% to 95%. Post-COVID, it will not be at 95% but my prediction is that it will 50% plus or minus 20%," he said.
Boston-based SilverCloud Health was born out of over a decade of research, according to the company. Launched in 2012, SilverCloud provides a digital mental health platform for healthcare systems and providers, health plans, and employers.
Through real-world results and randomized control trials, SilverCloud has shown clinical effectiveness on-par with face-to-face therapy. Up to 85% of patients who use SilverCloud showed clinical improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms and 65% of patients showed clinically significant improvement, the company said.
"Not only is the partnership with Quartet helping to break down traditional barriers to mental health care, but it’s also significantly improving clinical outcomes to a population that needs digital mental health care now more than ever,” said SilverCloud CEO Ken Cahill.
Quartet and SilverCloud first partnered in April to launch Care for our Caregivers, a program of free computerized CBT programs to support Quartet’s network of mental health and primary care providers and employees throughout the pandemic.
Quartet uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to match people with mental health resources, whether it's in-person or virtual care with a therapist or psychiatrist, or digital care options such as computer-based CBT programs.
The company has raised $160.5 million in venture funding from top investors like Oak HC/FT, GV (formerly Google Ventures), F-Prime Capital Partners, Polaris Partners, Deerfield Management, Centene Corporation, and Echo Health Ventures.
The startup recently expanded its partnership with Centene to help the health plans' members in 32 states quickly and easily access behavioral health care.
Quartet was evaluating computerized CBT programs before the COVID-19 pandemic and vetted several companies before settling on SilverCloud as a partner. The company has a proven platform and its CBT offerings reach a broad audience, Wennberg said.
It won't be the last partnership for Quartet as it looks to expand its offerings, he said.
"We are going to continue to bring on different care options because it is so apparent that we need to meet patients where they are and provide access to the care that is most effective to them," he said.