In Mental & Behavioral Health, Investors Find Challenges and Opportunities

28 Jun

By James Huang, Research Analyst, LSN

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Mental and Behavioral Health contains many highly prevalent but stigmatized health conditions, which can lead to a lack of interest from investors, therefore prolonging the development of treatments for these conditions. The Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) Boston Summer Conference on June 4, 2018 included a panel devoted to “Investing in Mental and Behavioral Health” to shed light on the subject. Despite the stigma associated with mental and behavioral health, there are investors working in the space to identify and fund digital health solutions for these high-need conditions.

For the panel, five mental and behavioral health experts shared their insights on the advancement of digital health solutions for mental and behavioral health conditions. The panelists covered topics such as: the current progress, areas or technologies that may raise skepticism, what they hope to see in the future, and whether investors face a similar stigma for targeting these specialized companies.

The discussion between the panelists brought to light many issues, such as hesitancy to work with passive data collection in a space with sensitive information, and a reluctance to diagnose these disorders in primary care due to an inability to treat effectively. The discussion on passive data collection and the skepticism around it is particularly thought-provoking and discussed thoroughly in the second clip highlighted below. You can watch and learn from the panelists insights regarding each of the prompts listed.

Moderated by Julie Papanek Grant, Partner at Canaan Partners, the panel included:

  • Justin Baker, Scientific Director, The McLean Institute for Technology in Psychiatry
  • Ken Duckworth, Senior Medical Director for Behavioral Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA
  • Robert Garber, Partner, 7wire Ventures
  • Eric Schaeffer, Senior Director, Neuroscience Innovation, Johnson & Johnson Innovation

Where Do These Investors See Progress?

What Areas/Technologies Are These Investors Skeptical About?

What Types of Technologies Do They Want to See in This Space?

Is There a Stigma Towards Investing in Mental and Behavioral Health?

As Robert Garber from 7wire Ventures mentioned, digital health solutions for mental and behavioral conditions, was not thoroughly reviewed at all when he first explored investment opportunities in 1996 despite the prevalence of mental health being ignored. Since then the topic is more openly discussed, so investors have seen a floodgate open resulting in a substantial increase in startups focused on mental and behavioral health.

As Ken Duckworth from BCBS of Massachusetts states, given the long history of prejudice and injustice for those suffering from mental and behavioral disorders, there’s a hesitancy to provide data given privacy concerns. While there still aren’t any solutions to adequately protect privacy concerns, this panel hopes to bring an even wider audience to the discussion to advance further ideas and potential treatments.

This panel will continue to be part of the agenda during RESI Healthtech Week featuring new voices and expertise, so if you’re interested in watching the live discussion on this topic, please be sure to join us there on September 6, 2018 too.

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