Every Picture Tells a Story: Mental Health Apps

By Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA — Apr 15, 2021
Data has suggested for a while that millennials have some mental health concerns. The pandemic didn’t help. But not to worry, increasingly, there’s an app for that.
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Mental health is a persistent problem, erupting into our consciousness when there is a mass shooting event or a homeless individual goes rogue. But for the most part, that is the tip of a much larger iceberg that affects many of us. Treatments have been very bifurcated, with some getting one-on-one therapy and many more being “treated and streeted” – given some medications and sent on their way. That picture is changing as apps seek to combine the two therapies and “scale them up” to serve a more significant portion of this under-cared-for market. 

Of course, when unmet needs meet a scalable solution, although that is waiting to be proven, healthcare’s newest “player,” venture capitalists, are not far behind. They are leading the charge. 


A few salient points.

  • Most of these apps treat anxiety, insomnia, depression – diseases that can be debilitating but, for the most part, leave you able to walk around and function. Severe mental illness, which requires more intensive care if for nothing else than monitoring, is not the market of choice. 
  • Most of these apps deal directly with consumers or through established health plans or systems. That eliminates many billing hassles and pre-certifications. These apps have a simplified route to being paid.
  • As is typical for a venture capitalist business plan, it takes the easy, highly billable care components and leaves that messy, dare I say low to no margin care to public health services. 

There are distinct advantages to the apps; first and foremost, they provide needed services that have been largely ignored. They offer transparency about costs and significantly reduce barriers to access. On the other hand, they may have privacy problems; they would not be the first healthcare system to be hacked. And who provides the oversight of quality and outcomes?

Source: The Rise of Venture Capital Investing in Mental Health JAMA Psychiatry DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.2847

Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA

Director of Medicine

Dr. Charles Dinerstein, M.D., MBA, FACS is Director of Medicine at the American Council on Science and Health. He has over 25 years of experience as a vascular surgeon.

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