Technology reduces the costs of workplace mental health, but technology and therapybots increase concerns
These apps and meditation have been a hot commodity. To help ease pandemic stress, companies are offering more mental health services. The investment case gained increasing recognition even before lockdowns. According to Deloitte, studies suggest that every PS1 spend yields an average return on investment of PS5.
Virtual mental-health service providers are growing in number to meet this demand. Not only has the pandemic increased uptake but also made it more difficult to find treatment. The US regulations were eased when it was difficult to provide in-person treatment due to lockdown.
Investors are investing. Seven US-based mental health apps companies have been granted “unicorn” status. They connect users with therapists, and provide relaxation tools. Lyra is a platform that provides mental health services for workers and has raised $200m. Its valuation was $4.6 billion.
Talkspace was able to become a pure-play stock in virtual mental health when it became public in New York. It has clients like Google and Expedia. Kooth, a digital platform for mental health and wellness that was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, was the first to do so.
Valuations could be affected by competition. Recent declines in shares of Teladoc Health, a leader in telehealth and Boston-based Amwell are evidence that the sector is facing competition. Stocks were affected by the May news that Amazon and Walmart were expanding their sector.
It is difficult to prove effectiveness. User engagement is low even for well-known apps. Experts have concerns about online therapy being used for minor mental problems. Although talking with a therapist via video is similar to meeting in person, text messaging can be more difficult than seeing them face-to-face. Text messages may also suffer from visual cues being lost and time delays. It is a radical move to substitute a therapist with a robot, although Woebot (a company founded by Stanford psychologists, AI experts and AI specialists) can provide evidence that its bots have formed a therapeutic relationship.
Employers would be reluctant to allow fully-automated treatment of their most difficult staff members.
Tech industry has a right to view mental health as an area that is ripe for disruption. There is a huge unmet demand. Only half of those with mental illness receive treatment in the United States and UK. There is huge potential for technology to make it more affordable.
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Publited at Sun, 18 July 2021 06:00.07 +0000