Exponential development of Digital Mental Health solutions due to Opioid crisis and the increase in depression!

Craig A. DeLarge founder of the Digital Mental Health Project, shared with us his views on how digital mental health is developing in the US, and what are the trends for the next year. He started the project back in 2014 and has seen a steady growth in the interest of the topic since. In the US this can be specially related to Opioid crisis and with the increase in the number of people with depression.

Since these are relevant problems, funding and attention from the government have increased as well as from investors and entrepreneurs. There have also been more FDA approvals of digital therapeutics, like Abilify MyCite and Pear Therapeutics/Sandoz reSet. The relationship between mental health and chronic diseases is also something that is evident and of concern. We see that chronic illness sufferers like those with diabetes, heart diseases and cancer often also suffer from depression or anxiety. Increasingly, US healthcare systems attitude is that patients who suffer from these chronic illnesses shouldn’t only treat their physical health, but also their mental health. This has been accelerated by the US Mental Health Parity legislation in 1996 and 2008. Digital apps are also growing as well as the funding for it.

Working on this project, Craig is focusing on a small portfolio of digital mental literacy and technographic research projects. According to him, digital mental health literacy work is developing via his blog and talks. He has also finished up a recent round of responses to his Digital Stress Management Survey and is looking to grow this global sample over time. Longer term projects include mobile ethnographic research to get a deeper insight into how consumers and clinicians are using digital technology throughout their daily lives, as a complement to the Survey findings, and increasing work advising digital mental health company and project leaders on landscape evolution and partnerships.

Because the US is more affluent and encouraged on digital health advancement as part of ObamaCare, it has the most advanced development in this space, worldwide. Much of the rest of the world has a tendency to adopt the technology but at a relatively slower pace. In the future, we may see exceptions to this trend in the EU, China, India, Australia, Singapore, Israel or Canada. Adoption will happen in those technology channels that each society is already using as part of their digital lifestyles. This is the case in Latin America, including Brazil.

The tendency for digital mental health is set to grow for 2019. According to Craig’s research, Brazil is some steps behind what is going on in the US. Here the focus is still on teletherapy, something that is already being done for a decade or more in the US. This is a promising market and startups like Zenklub, Vittude and others are developing products on DMH.

2019 Digital Mental Health trends:

  • Movement from point solutions to platforms. Platforms will gather multiple point solution services together, making for easier to find and use experiences. An example of a platform is TrustCircle, which provide assessment, tracking, tele-psych, peer support, analytics, etc. all in one place.
  • Solutions will be created to better adapt to consumer needs and place the customer in the centre during the design process.
  • Collection of data will continue to be a hot topic to better track and analyze if the new solutions on DMH are really helping.
  • Indigenization, or cultural customization, will develop solutions for finer and finer health populations. For example group therapy only for African American men like Henry Health, or Christians, like Faithful Counseling.

Indigenization is not only a tendency in this market but is a world trend to find solutions that fit specific groups of people. On digital mental health, however, there is still a long path to cover. Projects like Craig’s are welcoming, especially in Brazil where there still a large space to grow.

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