A lot has been written in recent years about “access to care” problems for people with mental illnesses. For example, we know that a large sector of the United States lacks professionals who can treat mental disorders and according to a recent report by Merritt Hawkins, psychiatry as a medical specialty has one of the highest numbers of vacant positions. Not only is access to care difficult for patients who live in rural or underserved urban areas, but communication between the various provider organizations (hospitals, residential programs, partial hospitalization programs, and outpatient clinics) that serve patients with mental illness tends to be poorly coordinated, which further complicates patients’ search for long-term stability. For these reasons, we at PsyberGuide are very interested to learn if digital technologies can close these access to care and communication gaps. To that end, we have been following several companies that are working in the “electronic case management” area.
Wellframe is a private, venture-backed company based in Boston whose purported customers are health insurance plans, provider organizations and pharmaceutical companies. They have developed the “Intelligent Care Management Platform” that uses a smart-phone app health checklist combined with HIPAA compliant Clinical Dashboard to track patient progress in many different health conditions, including psychiatry. They claim that their system allows care managers to meaningfully interact with more patients and reduce the number of costly phone and in-person sessions. They also claim that the system leads to better treatment adherence and consumer self-management. The company has sponsored one pilot studying looking at the use of their platform to improve the physical health of psychiatric patients (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25636496). They have also recently concluded agreements with large behavioral health organizations to study their platform in young adults with mental illnesses in Boston, and in a population of veterans in Chicago.
Mindoula is a private company based in Maryland. They claim to provide around the clock connectivity between case managers (“Mindoulas”) and psychiatric patients using traditional methods (phone or in-person meetings) or a HIPAA-compliant digital platform that includes a smart phone app. The website is directed at consumers themselves, but the company claims that they can also serve individual and group medical practices, therapists, residential programs, hospitals, college counseling services and geriatric care groups. It is not clear from their website whether they have concluded contracts with larger organizations or are focused mainly on individual patients at this point.
ThriveStreams is a venture backed company based in Brooklyn, NY. They have developed ThriveTracker, which is a smartphone app designed to improve the management of mood disorders by tracking mood ratings, sleep patterns and therapy sessions. Recently, the company has also developed ThriveSync, a platform similar to the two mentioned above, that combines a provider dashboard with a smart phone app to allow for active monitoring of patients with mood disorders, and hopefully for the development of more individualized and timely interventions. It is not clear from their website that any major contracts have yet been awarded.
We are quite sure that there will be many more such companies and technologies hitting the market soon and we will be tracking them closely. If you are a provider or a consumer and have had any experience with these systems we would be happy to have your input and comments.