While healthcare has a reputation for moving slowly (and for good reason), some pretty big things have happened lately, including the transition to values-based care and the rise of digital health, which is giving in more control over health the hands of the patient.
One of the most exciting trends since the beginning of last year is the trend towards teletherapy: With Invested $ 2.4 billion, 2020 was a record year for digital behavioral health companies. And 2021 has shown no signs of slowing as companies like SonderMind and Lyra Health raise large rounds of funding.
The other big trend in healthcare, but one that is no longer entirely new, is the use of artificial intelligence and chatbots to relieve the burden on the healthcare system, especially doctors who are suffering from major burnout. How important is AI in healthcare? It’s set to grow to over $ 120 billion by 2028.
Woebot health combines these two things in a single platform: an AI-powered mental health chatbot was developed that uses proven therapeutic techniques to encourage its bot to engage with patients. In fact, Woebot says this can be done in just three days, faster than the two to six weeks a patient would connect with a human therapist.
Last week the company did announced a $ 90 million Series B funding round co-led by an existing investor JAZZ Venture Partner and Temasek, with participation from funds and accounts held by. to get managed BlackRock Private equity partner and Owl company. Mirae asset capital, Kicker Ventures, Alumni companies and Gaingels, as well as existing investors NEA and AI funds, also attended, bringing the company’s total to $ 114 million.
Following this fundraiser, Michael Evers, CEO of Woebot Health, spoke to VatorNews about his company, the effects of COVID on mental health, the benefits of using AI and the next steps for Woebot.
VatorNews: What are your current mental health issues, especially over the past 18 months?
Michael Evers: Mental health is a human and economic crisis. Today, our supply of mental health professionals cannot keep up with demand. Most solutions aren’t designed to actually engage with users, and with tens of thousands of wellness apps available, there is limited evidence of results. We believe that proven cognitive and behavioral therapies are great, but are limited by the way they are usually done. We also believe in the power of relational technology to dedicate people to their mental health for life, for millions at a time.
People aren’t scalable, but technology is, and our technology has proven that it can connect with people. This is a significant step forward in solving the capacity problem we have always faced due to the lack of trained professionals.
VN: How does Woebot Health solve these problems? What’s your solution?
ME: We are a digital therapeutics company transforming mental health care through human-centered technology, making care more accessible, scalable, and personal. We built the first AI-driven platform that leverages proven clinical and relational strategies to enable people to bond humanly with our solutions and be more receptive and responsive to digitally delivered mental health care.
VN: Who is the typical customer for Woebot? Take me through some typical use cases.
ME: Woebot is available in app stores and downloaded by people who need an instantly accessible, stigma-free “personal coach” to help them navigate the ups and downs of life. We use behavioral health offers with payer and provider networks as well as other consumer health companies and are pursuing a regulatory path for digital therapeutics for postpartum and adolescent depression in order to achieve our goal of broad and scalable access to mental health solutions and support our business strategy to meet unmet needs across the care continuum.
VN: How does your AI work? Do you use it to diagnose patients and if so how accurate is it?
ME: Woebot works by inviting people to a conversation. In fact, the Woebot experience is just that: a simulated supportive conversation that encourages authentic disclosure and makes therapy radically accessible. Woebot uses AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to learn from millions of conversations annually and to offer therapeutic encounters that are psychologically related, respond to a person’s dynamic state of health and work specifically with tools from cognitive, behavioral and interpersonal disciplines .
The term “AI” is broad and does not fully describe Woebot Health’s approach. What Woebot says is largely based on proven therapeutic techniques. We’ve carefully integrated AI in certain areas, such as recognizing high-risk languages and understanding the type of problem people come to Woebot to talk about. We want to ensure that our AI algorithms help us advance the personalized and responsive nature of Woebot and help us continually learn and improve Woebot’s understanding of free text.
Woebot can provide common assessment frameworks, but does not offer diagnostics. However, diagnosed patients referred by a clinician use Woebot.
VN: Is there a human involved in any way? For example, if a person’s problems escalate and they appear to be in danger of harming themselves or others, how does the platform deal with it?
ME: Woebot is a purely digital solution because we deliver a scalable solution that can help close supply gaps. There are tens of millions of people living with depression and anxiety in the United States alone, and only 150,000 doctors are available to them. We’re way beyond the point where the only solution in sight is a one-on-one visit with a human. We need to find innovative ways to safely and effectively meet the huge unmet needs. We designed Woebot to act as an effective gateway to mental health support, a reinforcement for human-given treatment, or an accessible and accessible option for those who would otherwise avoid or have no access to in-person treatment.
In terms of escalation, Woebot uses AI to process what patients put in their texts and detects suicidal ideation and other crisis language with an accuracy of 98.9%. When Woebot discovers something that may be clinically relevant, it provides a list of crisis intervention resources curated by our clinicians and other outside experts that allow them to speak to a human.
VN: What ROI have you been able to calculate for patients thanks to your platform? Do you have hard numbers to share?
ME: Woebot’s relational technology was designed to be engaging and we are seeing the beneficial results of this very specific design strategy in our customer implementations and in our clinical trials. We cannot disclose our customers or their results, but I can say that our customers to date have had results that are in line with our published clinical studies, including our first study that showed the use of Woebot resulted in a significant reduction in anxiety and anxiety Depression in people aged 18-28 years old resulted in just two weeks. We believe relational technologies are the secret to unlocking the potential of digital therapeutics like never before, and we look forward to working with others in our industry to advance the next level of technology-enabled mental health care.
VN: How many users do you have now? How is this number growing?
ME: We do not disclose user numbers, but we can say that Woebot exchanges millions of messages with users every week, more than 500 million messages so far, and that we have seen an increase in interest during and after the pandemic.
VN: What is the cost to users? Who pays Woebot?
ME: We have multiple payment models, including reimbursement of PDTs, licenses, and value-based payments from behavioral health offerings. Our app store offers are currently free of charge; We intend to continue to find ways to provide broad access to various populations seeking help. This may involve major sales collaborations or other channels and will evolve as we learn what works for users and for our business.
VN: How has Woebot been affected by COVID? Have you noticed accelerated adoption or engagement?
ME: Engagement has always been high due to the way Woebot was designed, but we’ve seen significantly greater interest in our products and business over the past 18 months.
VN: Have you released any additional features to cater to patients during the pandemic?
ME: We delivered the first fully developed program with specially designed coronavirus content in early 2020. It was called “Perspectives” and contained content that was intended to arouse hope and encourage perspectives, as well as Woebot’s signature guided meditations and strategies for dealing with grief and stress, and sadness. It is still used today.
VN: How have you developed in the health tech sector in recent years? What is your vision of where it is going and how will Woebot Health help get there?
ME: We see great potential for relational technologies to fully engage people in their mental health and to transform care. We are committed to driving the next level of technology-enabled mental health care. Our proprietary relational agent Woebot is the only AI-powered mental health solution that has been proven to create a bond with users that is equivalent to bonding through human interaction. Because it is fully AI-driven but still able to create a human bond with users, Woebot uniquely positions itself to provide effective on-demand and on-scale psychiatric care.
VN: What is your ultimate goal with Woebot Health? How does the success look for you?
ME: Our mission is to make mental health radically accessible. Success is when everyone has access to the mental health tools they need right now and our mental health delivery system is transformed.
VN: Is there anything else I should know about the company or the new funding round?
ME: Digital therapeutics can add important nuance to the mental health conversation by suggesting that there is a broader, more holistic way to deliver mental health care than relying solely on personal therapy.
(Image source: woebothealth.com)