For centuries, the stigma surrounding mental and behavioral health created an enormous barrier that prevented people from seeking treatment. Many were afraid to admit they were struggling, and painfully uncomfortable discussing their concerns with loved ones. But in March of 2020, everything changed.
The coronavirus pandemic affected each of us in different ways, but one thing was certain. It became not only acceptable, but downright necessary, to express our fears and our doubts, our anxiety and depression, our ever-increasing stress over the knowns and the unknowns.
And there was a stark realization that unrelated to COVID-19, every one of us struggles with mental health issues in some way, shape, or form over the course of our lives.
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, one in five people live with a mental illness. Only half receive treatment. When COVID-19 hit, many of us made the decision to reach out for help. But where does one turn during a pandemic quarantine?
Enter the digital healthcare industry―on the brink of arriving for years, but stymied by regulations and antiquated beliefs. Suddenly, from apps for guided meditation to affordable teletherapy sessions, access to mental health services felt within reach. And reach out we did. In droves.
Venture capital firms began to pour funding into digital solutions for behavioral healthcare, soon followed by SPACs. In 2020 alone, $2.4 billion in venture funding was infused into the industry. The growth and innovation have been nothing short of explosive. Next on the horizon? The use of virtual reality.
This seismic shift is one of the silver linings of COVID-19. Mental health was pushed to the forefront of our collective consciousness, and the need for affordable, accessible support was glaring. Most important, the subject of mental health was no longer taboo.
I am intricately connected to all of this, not only in my professional career, but on a very personal level. I began therapy when I was just a child, as I tried to navigate through my parents’ divorce. I continued therapy through college, and off and on in my adult life. It arms me in ways that allow me to think through conflict and issues. It helps me to deescalate so many situations. It makes me a better father and a better husband.
I currently use the Headspace app for meditation and the BetterHelp app for weekly teletherapy sessions. With BetterHelp, I pay a monthly fee for unlimited telehealth visits and text communications. The cost is significantly less than what is typically associated with in-person therapy sessions, and the quality is outstanding, not to mention the convenience.
Yes, digital solutions are taking the behavioral healthcare industry by storm. Evaluations for digital healthcare companies are through the roof, and expectations are skyrocketing. Companies that previously raised $10 million in Series A funding are now raising $50 million.
This means the demand for CEOs, CFOs, experts in taking companies public, and in mergers and acquisitions, is unprecedented. And the market is highly competitive. Companies everywhere are asking, “how can we find and retain the best talent?”
My challenge is to help our partners in this space scale their businesses and scale quickly by bringing forward the best possible talent. It is such an exciting time for us because this is exactly what we do. We help our partners build world-class healthcare companies.
At some point in time, we expect a number of people will choose a return to in-person visits. But many, especially those with hectic work or family schedules, cost concerns, and other mitigating factors, will continue to opt for digital services, or perhaps a hybrid model.
The bottom line is, virtual care is not going anywhere, and many patients who were unable to come forward before, for whatever their reasons may have been, will finally have access to the help they need.
About the Author
Michael Leonard has been on the frontlines of the telehealth field, hiring top executives for industry leaders since even before this record growth. He is co-founder/leader of the healthcare practice at Klein Hersh International. The healthcare practice operates at the epicenter of the industry, helping dynamic organizations on the cutting edge of innovation to recruit bold executive leaders. Whether it is healthcare-focused venture capital (VC) or private equity (PE) firms looking to grow the C-suite of their portfolio companies, to transformative healthcare technology and services businesses needing to expand their leadership bench, the Klein Hersh healthcare practice is to the go-to executive search partner.