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Trend Hunter | The Digitization of Mental Health Care

Originally published by Trend Hunter, on January 30, 2019 by Ellen Smith

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We Spoke to Sam Duboc About BEACON's Mental Health Approach


What are some misconceptions people have about technology’s ability to thrive in mental health care? How do you overcome these barriers? 

We hear that technology can’t solve anything because there’s no humanity to it, people ask "how can it understand feelings?" Now, there’s no denying that psychologists play a very important role in the solution. The professionals we have in North America are terrific and their roles are very important. But over 75% of mental health afflictions are mood & anxiety disorders of the mild-moderate-mildly severe range. This range has been proven, with hundreds of studies, that protocol-driven treatment like CBT has as good as, or better outcomes than the drugs. You learn life skills, so it's long-lasting. So what we did with BEACON, is we made a digital version of cognitive behavioral therapy, with a couple interesting changes. 

There's no doubt that the therapist has a big role, not only helping you understand what's happening but in keeping you motivated, so we've added a full-time therapist to this. So you log onto BEACON, you get your own therapist. And this therapist isn't a bot, it's a person that sticks with you. The second thing is that we made it so every week we’re measuring outcomes, so we know - and these are validated measures - how well you are progressing through the system. Additionally, if you’re not doing well in the current treatment, we’ll move you to a different clinic, or move you to a different treatment. So really, the concept that we can specifically tailor this is a huge part of the digital experience. 

Finally, any mental health survey you look at - including the survey we did in which we spoke with 1,000 clinically depressed people - around 70-80% of the world won't go see a person. So, you can solve the 20% who will go see a person, but the fact of the matter is that most people won’t, and there's many barriers in a lot of cases. If you live in the North there might not be a therapist nearby, treatment can be very expensive, and what we've been able to do is we're eliminating these barriers. We've eliminated the barrier of time because you can use it when, where and how you want to. You can do it from your house or the gym, and the cost of BEACON is low as 10% of the cost of traditional psychology. 


With technology rapidly growing, what do you envision for the industry in the next 5-10 years? 

I think it's going to be a fantastic change for the better. If you look at mental health, it's becoming more acceptable to talk about. I think technology is providing a very safe environment that's allowing us to begin to do that. Today, there are thousands of apps that range from checking your daily mood, to platforms like ours that focus on treatment. There's this whole spectrum or eco-system of mental health options.

The health system in Canada puts the provider in the center of the circle. Really that should be flipped around so we can discuss what's best for the patient. What technology is allowing us to do is provide all of those - whether you need peer-to-peer, or psycho-education, or a quick course on dealing with stress. Technology allows us to flip it, to put the individual in the center to provide a terrific customized, informed path to help people get better, and stay better. 

We're in a world that's focused on remediation. My vision and my goal is to flip it from that to work toward proactive prevention.

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