RamaOnHealthcare October 19, 2021

In this Q&A, Russ Glass, CEO of Headspace Health, discusses the rationale for the merger of Ginger and Headspace and what employers, health plans, and consumers can expect of the combined entity, Headspace Health soon. He also dives into the technology behind the platform and how it is helping Headspace Health deliver accessible, affordable mental healthcare.

Russell Glass - CEO - Headspace Health

Russell Glass, CEO, Headspace Health

Questions/Answers

1. RamaOnHealthcare (ROH): Welcome, Russ, to our thought leadership series. Ginger and Headspace made huge waves in the behavioral health space to form Headspace Health. Congratulations on the merger! Let me start with a direct question. What is your combined company’s mission, game plan, and how do you aim for success?

Russell Glass (RG): Thanks! Our goal is a lofty one – we want to democratize mental healthcare globally to provide affordable and comprehensive support for everyone. The result will be the most comprehensive platform for mental health and wellbeing, provided at scale to millions around the world.

The merger closed on October 5th, and we are excited about the individual strengths Headspace and Ginger bring together. Specifically, the combined company has significant expertise in consumer brand, evidence-based interventions, and technology to improve resilience, reduce stress, and provide treatment to the millions of people experiencing mental health symptoms, from anxiety to depression to complex diagnoses. We will deliver this at scale around the world, reaching nearly 100 million lives across all 50 U.S. states and in 190+ countries worldwide.

Our goal is a lofty one – we want to democratize mental healthcare globally to provide affordable and comprehensive support for everyone.

2. ROH: Russ, I do see in the news that you predicted the behavioral health industry would see increased market consolidation in 2021. Do you foresee primary care, behavioral health, and social services merging digitally in the coming year enabling a holistic approach to health management?

RG: That is correct! It is important we increase the integration of the services you mention because it is critical to better health. It is also essential to take a more preventative focused approach to mental health specifically.

The rationale for this specific merger of Ginger and Headspace was influenced in part by the feedback from our members and employer clients.

With the myriad of mental health solutions now on the market, it is more challenging than ever for employers to design a mental health strategy to meet the diverse needs of their employees.

Previous Headspace clients had been vocal about their desire for us to expand beyond wellbeing and into mental healthcare. At the same time, Ginger’s clients are demanding more scalable, engaging tools that complement members’ sessions with coaches, therapists, or psychiatrists.

3. ROH: According to Business Group on Health’s recent 2022 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design survey held in June 2021, employers predict mental health and chronic disease needs will increase as employees face the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic in 2022. How do you view Headspace Health will address the employer market in 2022?

RG: Employers are desperately looking for answers. They see first-hand the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of their teams. We have seen a wave of employees – particularly women, leaving the workforce; many are citing stress levels as a contributing cause.

With Headspace Health, employers will be able to provide their employees the world’s most comprehensive digital mental health and wellbeing platform to meet them wherever they are in their journey. Employers who engage with us can look forward to comprehensive, proven, and data- driven solutions. Through Headspace Health, employers will be able to rely on one provider for a wider range of best-in-class products and services.

Prior to the merger, both companies have relied on research and evidence to drive development of products and services to deliver tools and interventions rooted in behavioral science. That is key. For example, our coaches are trained to identify the need for higher-level care and can help to escalate members into therapy or psychiatry services when needed. They support individuals through their entire care journey. This type of behavioral health coaching supports the needs of 80% of the population of our members.

4. ROH: We live in the digital age that demands leveraging technology, data, and algorithms to be innovative enabling personalization to meet individual’s unique needs. Please outline your technical and clinical strategy for positioning Headspace Health to stay ahead of the curve.

RG: We have invested heavily in technology – both seen and unseen – to bring care to as many people around the world as we can. Using technology, we provide our members with the fastest access to care right from a smartphone. Members can chat via text with a coach live, 24/7, 365 days a year. If needed, members can secure a video session with a therapist or psychiatrist more quickly than most in-person appointments.

In addition, powered by AI and data science, our care team utilizes a system that analyzes chat transcripts, clinical assessments, member satisfaction, and engagement data, and more to help them provide personalized effective care for each member – and ensure no one falls through the cracks.

The fact is, not all virtual mental health is created equal. High quality solutions combine proven, clinical approaches to care with the accessibility and scale that technology affords.

The fact is, not all virtual mental health is created equal. High quality solutions combine proven, clinical approaches to care with the accessibility and scale that technology affords.

From our view, high quality care begins with a team-based, tech-enabled collaborative approach of virtual care. For example, natural language processing (NLP) allows us to use technology to flag parts of members’ comments that could signal cause for concern that may be missed by an individual therapist in an in-person setting. Technology allows us to offer high-quality, culturally competent care regardless of race, gender, and economic status by expanding access to appropriate clinicians outside of an individual’s local geography.

…high quality care begins with a team-based, tech-enabled collaborative approach of virtual care.

5. ROH: The healthcare transformation is empowering members and ensuring convenience, simplicity, accessibility, transparency, affordability, actionability. How will Headspace Health address consumerism and what are your plans for the direct-to-consumer market? How does this play with payers ensuring health outcomes and reimbursement?

RG: Headspace is a beloved brand. There’s no doubt about that. Our goal by bringing together the companies is to be the most comprehensive platform for mental health and wellbeing, provided at scale to millions around the world and we can do that much more effectively as one company.

Our combined expertise in consumer brand, evidence-based interventions and technology improves resilience, reduces stress, and provides treatment to the millions of people experiencing mental health symptoms, from anxiety to depression to more complex diagnoses, most of which go untreated.

The combined company will do this at scale around the world, reaching nearly 100 million lives across all 50 U.S. states and in 190+ countries worldwide. Remember, prior to the merger, many of the world’s most admired companies already trusted us to care for their employees. We’re talking ViacomCBS, Delta Air Lines, Sephora, Starbucks, Adobe, and Hyatt and many others.

6. ROH: We are now experiencing a historical Health IT revolution as well as Digital Health evolution empowering patients/consumers. The three major federal initiatives: a decade of ongoing value-based models, price transparency, and interoperability are in play now. Where do you see the potential that will ease the challenges ensuring benefits?

RG: From our perspective, we remain laser focused on reinventing mental healthcare by coupling data science and virtual care delivery to provide immediate, affordable, personal support for anyone, anywhere, at any time.

That also requires working with world-class partners. For example, in April of 2021, Ginger, a Headspace Health company, joined the Cigna network of providers to bring our full suite of virtual mental health services to 14 million Cigna behavioral health customers nationwide.

In July of this year, we announced a partnership with AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia (DC) to bring a full suite of virtual mental health services to 110,000 Medicaid plan enrollees. Now, AmeriHealth Caritas DC enrollees have access to Ginger’s behavioral health coaching, therapy, and psychiatry services at no cost.

Also in July, we introduced Ginger for Teens, an expansion of the company’s full continuum of mental healthcare for adolescents ages 13-17. Ginger for Teens is a private, highly convenient way of providing adolescents with mental health support, right through a smartphone. There are approximately only 11 child/adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 children in the U.S., the majority of whom are clustered in large urban areas on the coasts.

So, you can see the theme here. We are committed to ensuring quality digital mental health care is affordable and available to anyone who wants and needs it. We plan to continue to expand in this way.

7. ROH: We are now seeing transformative changes occurring radically at a rapid speed driven by new players: Tech cos, Retailers, Startups. Please outline your strategic objectives on leading the change in the disruptive markets.

RG: We understand and agree there’s a major need to improve the availability and affordability of mental health care services and it is clear the system needs significant disruption to bring these services to underserved communities.

We understand and agree there’s a major need to improve the availability and affordability of mental health care services and it is clear the system needs significant disruption to bring these services to underserved communities.

Our members are telling us that is the case. For example, according to Ginger’s Third Annual Workforce Attitudes Toward Mental Health Report, 48% of employees report experiencing high to extreme stress in 2021 – a 7% increase over the last two years.

At the same time, the number of employees who have used technology-based mental health support has increased significantly — by 66%. So, that’s good news.

But we still have a long way to go. There are millions of people who go untreated every day. And that’s the point. There’s no doubt that digital mental health is key to addressing this large gap between demand for mental health care and available resources to provide help when and where it is needed. We have invested heavily in creating a team of providers that can meet members’ needs equitably and with compassion, and in technology to make this care measurement-based and scalable.

8. ROH: Healthcare costs the U.S. nearly $4 trillion annually. Research shows that social determinants of health (SDOH) accounts for up to 80% of health outcomes. We have an opportunity to create a virtual value ecosystem, a fundamental shift from the historically fragmented, volume-based models will have major implications. Please outline your thoughts on how Headspace Health can create a seamless, end-to-end digital, data system as healthcare transformation is all about enhancing patient/consumer experience.

RG: Right, SDOH is a major issue, and we are working hard to address it. We have an advantage because of the huge number of users and data they create. Our goal is to ensure those data points are able to inform our care paradigms and personalize the experience to deliver better outcomes more quickly. Today the sad truth is that in many cases, those in underserved communities simply have nowhere to turn. There are virtually no practitioners available. Our goal is to democratize mental health care and to make quality, personalized mental health options available to anyone who needs them, right on their smartphone, regardless of their ability to pay.

We also believe that we need to earn the trust, respect, and loyalty of our members to bring them the mental health support that they need. So, we focus on research and evidence. In 25+ published studies in some of the leading peer-reviewed journals, Headspace Health has been shown to have favorable outcomes of interventions including reduced stress, improved focus, increased compassion, decreased aggression, increased resilience, reduced burnout, increased positivity and improved satisfaction with life.

9. ROH: Where do you see the healthcare transformation market headed in the coming five to ten years and how Headspace Health is positioned?

RG: Well, it is clear we are seeing rapid growth and growing user acceptance and we expect that to continue. It is clear people are broadly embracing mobility as an option for their mental health needs, and we believe that will continue post-Pandemic.

For example, since January 2021 Ginger has added 615 employer clients and nearly a dozen new health plans and strategic partners. Utilization has basically more than tripled over the past year.

During the week of September 6, 2021, for example, Ginger observed a 423% increase in coaching users and a 305% increase in therapy/ psychiatry users, compared to pre-COVID averages (August 2019-January 2020).

There is tremendous demand and from our perspective an overwhelming need for digital mental health options that can bring help to the millions who typically have not had access to care because of cost, availability, and stigma.

 
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