There’s been a lot of high-profile efforts to disrupt the healthcare industry in the past few years—including successful ventures from Diagram, a launchpad for insurance, financial services, and healthcare startups, and the announcement of a one year pilot program for Dialogue, a bilingual virtual healthcare platform.
But what about mental health specifically? Entrepreneurs are especially prone to running themselves ragged, regularly working 80 hour weeks and foregoing vacations in the rush to turn their vision into reality.
That’s where mind.me comes in. It’s a passive mobile application and its goal is to help people with depression diagnose, manage, and predict it.
The three founders, Richard Zeidel, Jonathan Levitt, and Sylvain Perron, have been working together on and off for the past 25 years. Together they run Circle 6, an agency and digital/mobile shop. Circle 6 launched an incubator nine months ago, and mind.me is the first spin-off from that incubator.
“It’s sort of by patients for patients,” Jonathan Levitt told MTLinTECH. “I myself suffer from major depressive disorder and my partner suffers from bipolar disorder. Last fall, we were starting to notice signs in one of the partners that he was heading into a funk, and we approached him and tried to bring it up. He wasn’t able to see it.
Essentially the hypothesis we came up with two-fold. One: Are people able to see symptoms the patient is not as they move into a depressive state? Two: Could we passively, based on the user’s behavior, sensors on the phone, and usage, could we identify those triggers. The answer to the first part of the question was absolutely, I’m able to tell if somebody I know who suffers from a mental health condition is slipping. And then the alpha was really our way of validating the second hypothesis, which was yes, we can detect the change in behavior simply by installing an app on someone’s telephone. That was really the genesis of the idea. And because we’re patients building for patients, we’re extremely intimate with both the subject matter and the triggers.”
Once the app is installed on a user’s device, no further action is required. The app monitors data feeds to determine each user’s phone usage baseline, and notices deviations.
“Everybody’s baseline is different. Everybody has a different set of data streams that will help us from the machine learning side. What we’re looking for is patterns and exception reporting. As an example, one of the things I will do if I’m heading into a sort of depressive state is I tend to isolate, I recoil. And that will manifest in several ways: it will manifest in less usage of the phone, my circle of contacts I speak to will shrink drastically. If I am looking at GPS data, what we typically see is people have three zones: a home zone, a work zone, and an in-between zone or the social layer. What happens as you enter depression is you’ll see the in-between zone starts to shrink. What this means is my movement now is strictly utilitarian, I’m going from home to work and from work to home. If things start to get really bad, you’ll start to see the shrinkage of your cluster. One data set in and of itself won’t tell us anything, it’s the algorithms that are combining all the data sets that are looking for the triggers per individual.”
The app is nearing the end of closed beta, with plans to transition to a public beta in the first few weeks of March.
“There’s hundreds of data feeds that can speak to drivers of mood change. Right now we’re looking at things like call logs, SMS logs, GPS location, we’re looking at accelerometer, we’re looking at screen-on/screen-off.”
“All of the data feeds that we’ve brought into the application represent a symptom. The way that depression is typically calculated, if you have five of nine symptoms for a period of two weeks or more, you are considered depressed. Essentially what we’re doing is adding data feeds to speak to each of those nine symptoms.”
The output of all that data is called the mood board, and it’s visible on the user’s phone to keep track of how they’re doing over time. The mood board is also useful for physicians to heave a real-time picture of a patient’s day-to-day health over time.
“The mood board is basically like green light, yellow light, red light. Either you seem to be doing well, you seem to be slipping, or woah, we’ve got a red flag. We’re outputting for three stakeholders. The patient, who has the mood board which provides a level of self-awareness. The circle of trust. And the third is the user’s physician. I’ll go see my doctor three or four times a year and he’ll ask me how I’m doing, and when I answer, subconsciously I’m only referencing the past three to five days. By having a trend line and a data stream that’s available to the physician, this idea of self-reporting mood becomes obsolete. He now has an intimate look into the ups and downs of the patient’s mood on a real-time basis.”
Mind.me will also alert the member’s of a user’s ‘circle of trust’ if warning signs are apparent, letting those closest to the user know that they might be slipping into a depressive phase.
“The app asks the patient to identify two, three, four or five family members, coworkers or friends, someone who is aware of the condition or that the patient is comfortable enough talking to. When the app detects an upcoming depression, it will reach out to the circle of trust and proactively ask them to get involved.”
“When you think about all the parents out there whose teens are walking around with phones—and I have a teen at home—having an app like this is essential for me to be able to monitor his mental state.”
The closed beta has been a success, with tests determining 91% accuracy with the apps diagnostic capability. That success has attracted leading mental health experts to the team. Mind.me announced last week that Patrick Cashman and Roger McIntyre have joined as partners and Executive Chairman and Chief Medical Officer respectively. Dr. Raymond Lam has joined as a founding advisory board member.
“When we ran our alpha we reached out to some industry leaders and tried to get both validation of the idea, and we were in the process of building an advisory board. Dr. McIntyre was on our radar, when we reached out to him he was extremely impressed with what we’re doing and the results we’ve had so far, and he decided he wanted to play a larger role. He’s a partner in the business and our Chief Medical Officer. Patrick is the same, he’s a seasoned pharmaceutical executive who took a real interest in what we’re doing, believed so much in where we’re headed that he as well wanted to play a deeper role. We’ve been able, as a result of our successful alpha—we ran it in 22 countries—we’ve been able to attract some really impressive talent. We’re thrilled to have them on board.”
Patrick Cashman is the former President of Lundbeck Canada, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies engaged in research and development, production, marketing and sale of drugs for the treatment of disorders in the central nervous system, especially depression. Dr. McIntyre is a Professor Psychiatry and Pharmacology at the University of Toronto and Head of the Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit at the University Health Network in Toronto. Dr. Lam is a Professor and Head of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program in the Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, and Director of the Mood Disorders Centre of Excellence at UBC Hospital within the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.
“I believe mind.me will pioneer a new way to assist physicians and support patients and their loved ones. Physicians treating depression will improve patient’s lives with access to the first and largest real-time mental health database in the world. The company’s artificial intelligence and machine learning is already showing tremendous opportunity. I am proud to be a part of this very talented team who will change the treatment paradigm for depression.” said Patrick Cashman.
Now there’s one less excuse to take care of your mental help: there’s an app for that.