As Adolescent Mental Health Concerns Rise, Digital Health Companies Try to Tackle the Problem
by Robby Franceschini
February 19, 2019 – As noted in a previous blog, many digital health tools and services do not have offerings for adolescentsdespite the increase in mental health issues for this population. Vendors and entrepreneurs will benefit from addressing this market need and engaging this population at an early age, given that Gen Z and their millennial peers are currently voicing support for providers who offer digital capabilities and will soon make up a majority of the population. Below, our review of current digital mental health offerings, which include virtual visits as well as CBT and mindfulness digital tools, shows that there is an appetite for digital solutions and a particular need for more clinical, provider-to-patient treatment solutions.
Few vendors offering virtual visits, either via live video or telephone, include services for teenagers. Vendors that do provide offerings for teens make them available in an ad hoc fashion to employers or other payers. In fact, virtual care for teens is so limited that a Google search for “telemedicine for teens” produces no first page results that could help a teen in need find a direct-to-consumer vendor or a resource page.
However, our in-depth analysis of digital mental health tools for teens uncovered the following virtual behavioral health services for teens:
- Teen Counseling is one direct-to-consumer option available to teens. After registering with their parents, teens are able to access a panel of therapists for $40-$70 per week. Visits can take place via text messaging, live video or telephone.
- Medical group Pacific Coast Psychiatry Associates is another California-based option that offers both psychiatry and therapy for teens. PCPA accepts some insurance plans and offers self-pay for those not in-network. Again, parents must help teens register and provide consent, but after registration, teens are able to schedule their own appointments and meet virtually with their providers without their parents.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness
Our research also reveals that many products containing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, or other therapeutic interventions are available for teens because they do not pose perceived, or real, consent issues for medical treatment. Mindfulness refers to a variety of approaches with techniques based largely on eastern forms of meditation that focus on regulating thoughts and emotions. CBT is a form of therapy focused on identifying negative thinking and developing constructive strategies for managing these thoughts.
Mindfulness Apps and Teens
One popular and well-known app called Headspace offers meditation and mindfulness sessions to help users with anxiety, stress, and sleep issues. Whil, another mindfulness app, is used by Harvard Business School students and employer groups. Whil’s teen-focused tools are also offered for free to parents and students in Marin County’s Tamalpais Union High School District through the District’s Wellness Centers. Another meditation app gaining traction with adolescents is Simple Habit. As one Marin County teen subscriber Taylor Leslie says, “I use the anxiety one every night.”
CBT Apps and Teens
Anxiety Canada, a mental health-focused foundation in Vancouver, offers MindShift, an app that acts as a digital coach offering a CBT-based approach. Oakland-based nurse Shelly Nakaishi notes that she refers the app to many of her adolescent patients, seeing it as a resource for alleviating mental health symptoms for patients that must endure long wait times to get in to see child or adolescent psychiatrists. SilverCloud also makes its large variety of CBT tools available to teens, although its offerings are currently not direct-to-consumer. SilverCloud is an early-stage venture selling primarily to employers, other payers, and large health systems, that has attracted over $10 million in investment.
Although teens are largely overlooked by vendors offering clinical, provider-to-patient treatment solutions, they are using the digital mental health apps available to them. BluePath Health will continue to track adolescent mental health digital solutions and help organizations understand the different digital needs of the adolescent market.