Episode 54

Mental Health: Innovating Care

with Dana Udall, Ph.D.; Alison Darcy, Ph.D.; and Virna Little, Ph.D.
Episode hosted by: Carina Clawson

November 22, 2022

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Dana Udall, Ph.D.; Alison Darcy, Ph.D.; and Virna Little, Ph.D.

Dana Udall, Ph.D. is the Chief Clinical Officer at Ginger and Headspace Health. Alison Darcy, Ph.D. is the President and Founder of Woebot Health. Virna Little, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Concert Health.



What I love most about collaborative care is how flexible it is. We bring true patient-centeredness and access to the table. – Virna Little, Psy.D.

Dana Udall, Ph.D.; Alison Darcy, Ph.D.; and Virna Little, Ph.D. Tweet



Carina Clawson: Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. According to the CDC, more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their life.

Mental healthcare is becoming less stigmatized, and more patients are seeking out the care they need. However, that presents a problem for healthcare: meeting the demand for mental health services.

This episode is part 2 of our 2-part series on mental health. We compiled insight from leaders interviewed on both Day Zero and Her Story discussing innovations in the mental health industry.

Today’s episode will feature Dana Udall, Ph.D. is the Chief Clinical Officer for Headspace Health and Ginger. We will also hear from Virna Little, Psy.D., co-founder and Chief Operating Officer for Concert Health. And we will wrap up with Ali Darcy, the President and Founder of Woebot Health.

To begin, let’s hear from Dr. Udall.

Dana Udall: You know, I think a lot about prevention. And one of the things that has really changed over the course of my career is that we have gone from talking about diagnoses and treatment and sort of taking care of folks at one end of the spectrum to really thinking much more broadly, as you were saying that everybody has some mental health struggle, some issues, some skill that they need to build. And so I think a lot of my thought, and effort is really about how do we catch people early? How do we teach skills? And how do we make sure that those that are more vulnerable or underrepresented groups are part of that conversation? So we are at such an important inflection point when it comes to mental health, and D IB. And I think the opportunity is really making sure that there is no one size fits all for treatment, so great that we’re talking about empirically validated care. But what does that mean, for particular individuals that are from groups that aren’t traditionally study that are underrepresented and speak different languages, there is a whole lot of work, we need to continue to do to personalize care, so that it’s not just sort of a blanket like, we use CBT? Well, that’s great. But that may look really different in different individuals, or, you know, we know that for some cultural groups, talking with let’s say, a priest is much preferred. It’s much more culturally congruent than seeking mental health services. So how do we catch people early and make sure that they have the resources in a way that really fits for their background and identity to get that support.

Carina Clawson: There is no one size fits all for treatment. Mental health care can be made more effective by accounting for patient preferences and experiences.

Next, let’s hear from Dr. Little.

Virna Little: I think one is that again, people often know their primary care provider, they trust them and being a part of that clinical team is really helpful. I would also say one of the things that I love most about collaborative care is how flexible it is lots of models and lots of organizations will say their patient centered, but when you actually look to the patients get to choose the cadence to the patients get to choose, you know, what it looks like for them, how often they talk to someone or what happens during those contacts? Do they get to choose the modality? Do they really get to take part actively in the treatment? And oftentimes the answer is no. And I think that to me, what we bring to the table around that true patient centeredness is incredibly helpful. I also think access, you know, our ability to get someone into care within hours after that provider referral, you know, we’re at about one and a half hours now. And I think someone needs care when they need care. And when they ask for care, and when they when they get identified, and oftentimes, the access issue is really problematic. And if you’re scheduling someone out a month or six weeks, or it takes time for them to figure out an app, or to be able to engage, then you lose them. And I think our ability to engage people in care where they are in a very, very truly patient centered way, and to really have the flexibility, most of our patients we talked to multiple times in the first week, which is very different, and most patients really appreciate.

Carina Clawson: A collaborative care model provides patients with greater access and coordination for their behavioral health services.

To wrap up, we will hear from Ali Darcy.

Ali Darcy: I was thinking about that narrative about replacement. And recently, I was thinking like robots, like a bicycle. And therapy is like the Formula One racing car. Like they’re both transport, but they work in very different ways. And they have very different, unique kind of strengths and limitations. And so one of the things that I knew from, you know, working with people in in Stanford was, and we know from the literature is that the more work people do in between sessions, the better the outcomes were, and as a CBT therapy, when I was a CBT, therapist, and just it was really hard to get people to do things between sessions and like they, you know, people would come with their wads of paper, you know, hurriedly filled out in the weight room before they came in to see you. And it’s sort of like, oh, that’s, that’s missing the point, right. So we leave a lot of clinical value on the table, where so woebot is is like, really great tool that enables people to engage in some of the skills that their therapist is teaching them. And it just works so beautifully. Where we’ve had engagements where we’ve seen, you know, therapists refer their their patients to robot, and they come back and say things like, their patients come more ready, more engaged in therapy with them.

Carina Clawson: Woebot doesn’t replace traditional mental health care, but rather compliments it. It provides a way to scale up mental health services in a way that is still flexible for patients.

Entrepreneurs are innovating the mental healthcare space, creating new tools and systems. The industry will continue to evolve over the next decade, and the companies that cater to patient preferences and lived experiences will have a competitive advantage.

If you’re interested in part 1 of this series, about the state of mental healthcare perceptions and practice, head over to Her Story. And for more entrepreneurial insights, follow along with Day Zero.


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