State of The Sector: When Mental Health Goes Digital, Q3 2021

Guess what, the world around us is still seemingly, metaphorically, realistically, and more than surely, on fire. So many things are out of balance and out of sync that we can no longer effectively sweep it all under the rug. We continue to reach, to cling, and to search deep into our individual and collective pasts for the “old normal” because maybe we secretly FEAR what the new normal will bring, will mean, will change, and, of what we ultimately will be or become. Honestly, I am not sure if I can believe any longer that the pandemic is the biggest thing threatening our species, our humanity, and our homes.  I instead believe that it is FEAR on so many levels, perpetuated by so many things, across so many spectrums of our lives that is the biggest danger to us all. Recently I was driving along a highway near my home and saw a digital sign flash words for only a few moments across its screen.  Those words have stuck with me. It was that FEAR has two meanings: Forget Everything And Run Or Face Everything And Rise We have been running from so many things individually and collectively for so long, perpetuating cycle after cycle that never seem to close. I think it’s time to embrace change so we can learn, adapt, and grow. I FEAR (there’s that word again) that it is slowly becoming our only path forward through the many hazards that surround us all. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all being traumatized by the perils around us. This vicarious trauma is not only being experienced at arm’s length but also something we are all experiencing firsthand. Whether we want to admit it or not, that trauma is rooted in some form of fear. Letting go of FEAR(s) means embracing change, the truth being that it is the only true constant in all our lives and collective humanities. Up until now many of us have held fast clinging to the many threads of the fabric of our individual and collective pasts and presents, fearing change, but it is time to learn to just flow and grow. Change is a thing of pure beauty that should be embraced–especially if we make sure that the change ushers in many things of splendor and balance. After the last few years, I totally understand the reluctance and hesitance regarding change and the over-reliance on our pasts to guide us, but this can no longer be our future.  Otherwise we will all be things of the past. Q2/3 State of the Digital Behavioral Health Sector: THE ECONOMY United States According to Daniel Bachman of Deloitte even though we have suffered a steep decline in production and income, a historic jump in the unemployment rate, and the trauma of a completely different type of shock that required substantial changes in behavior, the American economy might actually return even stronger. This more-than-promising outlook is being forecasted on projections that US GDP is likely to rise above the level expected prior to the pandemic. There are many reasons why the economy is poised to grow, which Deloitte mentions as: Business finances are healthy Households are sitting on larger piles of savings and have taken on less debt The pandemic accelerated productivity trends, particularly in telecommuting and e-commerce Government spending and relief bills will continue to support growth Deloitte goes on to say that we should all remember that the long-term trajectory looks pretty good right now. In the short term it is highly possible that we will see temporary setbacks, encounter potholes and it will most likely be a bumpy ride, but things will smooth out eventually. Globally Jumping over to the global economy we are hearing and seeing much of the same. states that Q4/2021 numbers came in almost universally above their forecast across the globe and as a result raised their estimate for global GDP growth by 50 basis points. S&P Global expects: The eurozone economy to recover its pre-crisis levels of activity by first-quarter 2022 and revised their forecast for eurozone GDP growth to 4.2% for 2020 and 4.4% for 2022 The Asia-Pacific economy forecast was upgraded by S&P Global to 7.3% for 2021 from 6.8% previously. In a nutshell, things are looking good long-term and forecasts are being updated to reflect this but the short term, globally, is going to be a bit of a bumpy ride, so buckle-up. Health Tech Funding Overview Q2/3 2021: According to, “H1 2021 secured $14.7B in digital health funding, already surpassing all of 2020’s funding. The half closed with 372 deals and an average deal size of $39.6M, spearheaded by 48 mega deals which accounted for 59% of total H1 2021 funding. Public exit activity ballooned with 11 closed IPOs and SPACs, with another 11 SPACs expected to close in 2021.” What’s even better than that is that by the six-month mark, 2021 funding has already surpassed the total of overall funding. This means that funding, deals, deal size, acquisitions and public exits are all up. The two sectors raking in the most money are: Biopharma/device R&D ($2.7B) On-demand healthcare services ($2.6B) This shouldn’t be a surprise as these are the sectors that have been leading the way throughout the entire last 1.5 years and some change. Behavioral Health Funding Review for Q2/3 2021: Funding in the mental health tech sector reached a record high of $1.3 billion so far in 2021 and interest in mental health has never been higher. cites mental health as one of the top-funded clinical indications, while funding for startups helping to manage substance use disorders  rose steadily as well.  Ongoing investment in mental health and substance use disorders tracks the long-held belief that digital health helps to break down stigma and improve access to behavioral health support. Some notable successful rounds raised according to Mobihealthnews so far are: Lyra Health raised $200 million Vida Health raised $110 million in their […]

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State of the Sector — AR/VR/XR

2019 was a mega year for both virtual and augmented reality, together, in the broad spectrum of extended reality (XR). For the past several years, VR has been a niche industry. Although big corporations like Facebook, Microsoft, HTC, and other firms have collectively pumped billions of dollars into developing the ecosystem via VR headsets and AR tools but developers haven’t seemed very interested in developing a robust ecosystem of VR/AR apps. The one exception is games of course, which seems to be this vertical’s area of market-strength. Most people’s first experiences of VR and AR today are likely to be in gaming and entertainment. That’s changing, as research shows that the development of enterprise XR solutions is overtaking. The 2020 XR Industry Insight report collated by VR Intelligence states that 65% of the AR companies surveyed said they are working on industrial applications, while only 37% are working on consumer products and software. It wasn’t always this way. In fact, there was a time when pundits predicted that VR would go mainstream sooner rather than later. Today, the potential uses for these technologies in healthcare and wellbeing are obvious, and over 2020 we can expect to see many of these uses transition from trials and pilots and gradually into general use. Case Studies Virtual reality has already been adopted in therapy, where it has been used to treat patients with phobias and anxiety disorders. VR is also used to help people with developmental disabilities to help develop social and communication skills, as well as to diagnose patients with cognitive impairments, by tracking their eye movement. SyncThink, which uses a virtual reality headset and eye-tracking to perform neurotechnology and brain health analytics, said it has partnered with two clinic chains that can use the tech to evaluate patients for brain health and concussion risk. Start-ups like Comprehensive Concussion Care (C3) and Brain Fitness Centers of Florida use the VR-based Eye-Sync system to help diagnose patients who have cognitive impairment or possible concussions. Since COVID-19, the XR world which looks significantly virtual is headed strongly towards this vertical and has lots to offer. For many, the loneliness caused by compulsory isolation will begin to take its toll eventually. Boston startup, XR Health has been offering VR telehealth services since the outbreak. They have now begun harnessing XR to offer healthcare professionals the opportunity to interact with their patients and monitor their conditions remotely, eliminating the need for personal exposure. These patients can benefit from a range of breathing exercises, guided meditation, 360 film, physical activity, cognitive exercises, as well as support groups with other patients, where they are able to share experiences & discuss their fears to help cope in isolation. Training in XR While COVID-19 is occurring, many doctors and nurses are being drafted to manage COVID-19 and many other types of patients— those with heart attacks, strokes, gastrointestinal bleeding and other emergencies. To help assist these struggling hospitals in training staff, Oxford Medical Simulation has begun offering its medical training platform free-of-charge during the COVID-19 pandemic to U.S., Canada, and U.K. facilities in need of assistance with patient care. Since allowing free access, the VR simulation training has been adopted by more than 50 hospitals with a combined total of 17,000 students and staff. These medical professionals are now using the VR simulations to brush up on their skills via a series of randomized training scenarios. There is this huge need to train people up quickly, whether they are in the medical profession or whether they are coming back to the profession to help during the pandemic. Another successful case scenario is that of Oxford VR’s social engagement program which applies cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques within an immersive virtual reality setting that tasks patients with completing various objectives. Oxford VR (OVR) launched the social engagement app, a progressive behavioral health intervention using virtual reality technology to help individuals overcome anxious social avoidance — prevalent in multiple mental health conditions including agoraphobia, panic disorder, social anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and schizophrenia. According to Oxford VR, anxious social avoidance is a major unmet need in mental healthcare. Disrupting Mindfulness Seth, the co-director of the University of Sussex’s Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, has been studying a fundamental scientific problem for most of his career: the question of how consciousness happens. Seth has been experimenting with virtual reality. “It’s been a longstanding goal that came about when trying to understand, from a neuroscience perspective, the notion of presence, the question of how and why we typically experience things are being real, as in really existing in the world. When we start asking that question, VR becomes an important experimental tool.” Seth uses VR to manipulate the way we experience our existence, being ourselves and the holistic experience of embodiment. Seth says. “The potential for VR in neuroscience is enormous and is just getting going. In five years, it’s going to be game changing.” A parallel example of understanding that ownership is Personalized virtual reality (VR) technology, which enables new forms of self-reflection. In a successful case study, a collaborative team of researchers, led by experts from the University of Sheffield, are pioneering a highly personalized, therapeutic VR tool LifePathVR where people with common mental health problems can create an immersive version of their own journey through life.The tool allows people to capture life events, upload relevant digital content and reflect on their thoughts and feelings in a narrative approach .While helping with better mental health, this approach could also be beneficial for people receiving end-of-life care. Conclusion We’ve probably reached the point where we understand that there won’t be some magical leap into VR/AR, but a gradual adoption of these technologies is where it makes sense. Virtual collaboration is certainly one of those successful cases. Zoom in COVID -19 days along with other mixed platforms like Spatial, Imaginate and VR-ON give us hope that this vertical is not far from booming where the ability to pore over detailed 3D designs or projects in a VR or AR environment can really accelerate a work schedule and productivity. And it’s noteworthy that the […]

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