As the Frontiers Health 2022 conference in Milan on October 20-21 approaches this week, PharmaForum has been in contact with members of the event’s steering committee to find out more about them and the driving force behind the event itself. Here, Woebot Health Chief Business Officer Monique Levy talks about her winding road into the world of tech, starting at the World Bank where she worked on public health.
“My early work was understanding attitudes towards HIV and why people do and don’t have safe sex,” she told Pharmaforum. “I realized that people are not really rational beings, which led me to pursue a PhD in health psychology. It’s about understanding if you can help the sick.”
But before he could finish his health psychology thesis, Levy got caught up in the burgeoning world of health technology in the early ’20s.
“We were trying to figure out a lot of what we’re doing today, but we only had nascent technology. Widgets on desktop, not mobile,” she said.
After more than a decade in the consulting game of helping life sciences companies keep up with technology trends, Levy found himself on the operational side.
“Since 2016, I have worked for several companies trying to build different parts of the ecosystem,” she said. “For the past five or six years, I have been helping companies unlock science and bring it to market.
what is her final destination? Woebot Health is a digital health start-up mainstream tech press I call them “chatbot therapists”. The company prefers “mental health relational agents.” Whatever you call it, the company’s focus on building meaningful patient engagements has allowed Levy to return to his own roots in health psychology.
Patient engagement in healthcare takes cues from customer engagement in other industries, but healthcare is different. Levy hopes Woebot will lead the industry in thinking of engagement as a clinical idea, not just a business idea.
“We think of this as a psychological principle, not just a user engagement principle,” she explained. “The core of the company is [Founder Alison Darcy] Consider a good treatment for a related condition. So she built technology into this relational agent. It’s not an interface issue, nor is it a marketing issue at the end of drug development. ”
As the mental health digital therapy market heats up, Levy hopes it will be a lesson to share.
“I’m very excited that other people want to be patient-centered, but I want to open the conversation to think about this from a psychological perspective of building therapeutic alliances.” “We’re very excited about that aspect of therapeutic development,” she said.
The New World of Mental Health
While the use of AI agents for mental health may be controversial, Levy argues that AI agents are an important tool for meeting otherwise impossible levels of demand. I’m here.
“The harsh reality is that we weren’t designed to meet the demands of today,” she said. It doesn’t work, we don’t get enough people, we don’t get enough expertise, we’ve learned that mental health disorders start very early and need to be dealt with when they become severe. You have to be sick to get better, as opposed to you can’t find someone who is in the process of getting sick, so there are a few design flaws in how the system is built. I think there is.”
Digital therapy will therefore have a role to play in the future of mental health care. Exactly what that role is is something the industry has to grasp in conversations like the one at Frontiers Health.
“I think we’re going to be in a world where there are multiple therapeutic modalities,” Levy said. “Some might get digital treatments and drugs, and maybe neuromodulation, and someone else might get another combination. I think we’re moving, in terms of how digital therapy fits into this, if you use the term when you just mean therapy, you’ll find that it can scale therapy pretty well. , learning what they’re good at, who they’re good at, and how to enhance the care that exists today.”
That’s the conversation we need right now, Levy says.
“I think the conversation about replication and personnel replacement is too simplistic,” she says. “And I don’t think it really matters. And “How do we use this to meet people’s needs?”
Woebot is testing agents in very specific situations and populations, such as women with postpartum depression.
“At the time, it was notoriously difficult for women to find and access care for a variety of reasons,” says Levy. “Therefore, digital therapy, structured in the right way, can help address the issues that psychologists and her OB need at a very critical time that can have a profound impact on the trajectory of a woman’s health. It helps.”
More conversations await
Levy hopes Frontiers Health will provide a forum for all these conversations and digital treatments in what she calls a “sophisticated crowd.”
“I think we still need to talk a little more on the topic of evidence,” she said. “Maybe we get it, but we need to continue to seek evidence that payers really need to be confident that these add to the services they provide to providers and patients. There is. So I think that’s one topic.”
Another topic ripe for exploration is preparing for the future of technology.
“It’s an idea of how good technology can be,” she said. “It’s going to get pretty fast and pretty good and what does that mean for the industry? So some of the things I see as inevitable are some of the things we cover.”
Monique Levy will present her keynote “Perspectives on Digital Therapeutics in Mental Health and Beyond” on Thursday, October 20th at 3pm (Milan time) at Frontiers Health.
And see how relational technology can solve the mental health crisis. [Keynote] Below is from last year’s event.