Digital Health Founders Series–Osmind
Cracking the Code of Treatment Resistant Mental Health Through Electronic Health Records
Silicon Valley is home to Nobel Prize Winners, Olympians, billionaire founders, and some of the brightest minds in the world–the tip of the spear, so to speak. Although the professional successes of Bay Area elite are widely advertised and revered, what we don’t often see are the side effects of the high-pressure environments most commonly associated with Silicon Valley–anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions. While the aforementioned observations on the relationship of environmental pressure and mental health may be geographically limited in their application, mental health has undoubtedly been catapulted to the forefront of the public health conversation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The stresses of working from home, political and civil turmoil, economic uncertainty, and other factors are forcing many to come face-to-face with their own mental health issues for the first time. Many believe the time is now for a shift in the paradigm of mental health care delivery–in 2020 $2.6B was invested into 247 mental, behavioral, and brain health startups and Talkspace went public through a $1.4B SPAC deal. Despite these signals that the tide is shifting, global economy productivity losses still total almost $1 trillion every year from anxiety and depression alone and researchers estimate that 14.3% of deaths worldwide are attributable to mental disorders.
I sat down with Jimmy Qian and Lucia Huang, co-founders of Osmind to talk about the emerging trends in mental health care today, the challenges of patients with treatment-resistant mental health conditions, and the importance of streamlining care management through intuitive software and electronic health record systems.
Deeply passionate about mental health, Jimmy is a medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine. He has co-founded and led three nonprofits (all of which are still active and successful) spanning community healthcare for underserved populations, immersive technologies for pediatric healthcare, and life sciences research. He has also received awards for his research in digital health and mathematical biology. Jimmy holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.
Lucia previously worked to help cure ALS and Parkinson’s at Verge Genomics, an AI-driven neuroscience biotech startup. At Verge, she helped scale the company from seed to post-Series A. She previously invested in innovative healthcare technology companies at Warburg Pincus. Lucia started her career advising pharmaceutical companies in investment banking. Lucia graduated Yale with a B.S. in Chemistry and earned an MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she was also awarded a Certificate in Public Management and Social Innovation. At Stanford, Lucia focused her studies on healthcare and co-led the GSB Healthcare Club. Lucia is passionate about mental health and has devoted her career to improving healthcare, from life sciences to new technology innovation.
Q: What is Osmind and what were the motivations in creating the company?
Lucia Huang: There are so many issues with our mental health care system and so much opportunity to help change it. What we really see is a lack of precision mental health, which means that we don’t know what treatments will work best for an individual simply because of a fundamental lack of data infrastructure in the mental health system. No one has been able to bring different types of data together, so we really want to be that data engine that can aggregate and generate proprietary data, which we can then mine for insights on how to best inform drug development or care management programs in mental health. We’re doing this through building software and an electronic health record that serves treatment resistant mental health patients and their providers. Our goal is to really focus on patients who have failed multiple lines of conventional therapy and are now seeking more intensive psychiatric modalities. The electronic health record is pretty unique in that it’s not hard to use, streamlines better care, provides remote monitoring of patients, and overall helps with research purposes.
Q: Why mental health and why use an EHR as the backdrop for building Osmind?
Jimmy Qian: Lucia and I were both very interested in mental health through our own personal journeys, partly because we both grew up here in the Bay Area and went to school on the East Coast — both very high pressure environments. It was something that’s always been around us and we really wanted to do something about it. As we were thinking about what was needed to transform mental health care, we noticed that there was a certain population that was neglected — those with treatment resistant mental health conditions. This population makes up one third of all those with mental health issues so we wanted to help these people specifically. We realized that building an EHR was the best way to approach this because we needed a whole infrastructure for where neuropsychiatry is going. The best way to do that is to be the source of truth for every clinic that’s seeing these patients. We can build any sort of software, but at the end of the day, we need something that can really help provide better clinical care and not impact the workflow negatively. We thought the best way to do this was to have everything in one place, starting with an EHR.
Lucia Huang: We are so excited with where neuropsychiatry is going — it is one of the fastest growing fields of medicine right now, in the same way that oncology has been transformed in the last decade. Mental health and neuropsychiatry are at an inflection point right now where there is huge momentum behind new types of modalities and types of scientific understanding of the brain. We really think that there’s an opportunity here to capture all that information and enable the best clinical care and research possible.
“Mental health and neuropsychiatry are at an inflection point right now where there is huge momentum behind new types of modalities and types of scientific understanding of the brain. We really think that there’s an opportunity here to capture all that information and enable the best clinical care and research possible.”
Q: In terms of the worldwide mental health crisis, even before the pandemic, can you talk about the problem you’re tackling and what makes Osmind different?
Jimmy Qian: The problem is that we don’t have good therapeutics for a large segment of the population as well as a lack of understanding for how mental health works. We lack precision diagnostics and effective care management programs for mental health. These are things that can only be solved if we understand mental health at a deeper level. If we get enough multimodal data and do enough research to help advance where the field is going, then we can further support the neuropsychiatry revolution that is occurring. We’re very involved in this movement and are trying to lay the digital infrastructure so that when the research is ready to go for all these new therapeutics that are coming out, we’ll be in a good position to help patients access all of these new treatments.
Q: Where do you think the mental health field is going and what does the future of Osmind looks like?
Jimmy Qian: We mentioned that we think the field is undergoing a revolution and psychedelic medicines are a big part of that, because it is really transforming how people have thought about mental health. Random hallucinogens that people have always thought of as fringe are very legitimate medical treatments that the FDA is starting to approve. So for us, it’s not only about accelerating this research and making sure that we can help discover new treatments, but it’s also about patient access [to care] because there is going to be a very large barrier for a lot of people who need help to get those treatments. Part of that is just purely logistical — insurance, for example, is starting to put up many barriers around prior authorization and there are also regulatory barriers as well. For us as a digital health company, if we’re able to lower all those barriers, that will in turn help more people.
Lucia Huang: I think in terms of our growth, this is such an exciting area of medicine that could change the paradigm of how mental health care is delivered. Rather than having someone rely on taking a pill or multiple pills every day for the rest of their life, technology could enable more of an actual cure.
Q: How do you think Osmind fits into the broader picture of healthcare? As you primarily work with clinics, how do you think the company fits in with the Epic’s and Cerner’s of larger healthcare systems and influences your strategy moving forward?
Lucia Huang: One of the challenges you see with mental health care is that it is so fragmented. We really want to democratize access to care by enabling all sorts of clinics to have access to the top software in order to treat their patients as best as possible. I definitely think the Epic’s and Cerner’s are doing great things for hospitals, but a lot of mental health is happening at the ground level. Even fields like ketamine treatment for example, which has FDA approved off-label use for depression and other psychiatric disorders, are growing by 200–300% percent every year. It’s really exciting to enable these clinics to have access to the best software possible. Beyond that, we see our presence not just in the clinics, but also alongside pharmaceutical companies, health systems, and insurance as well. Because we are the center for care delivery and we’re aggregating information, we could also help with insurance barriers, support Pharma in developing better therapeutics, or even expand labels for existing therapeutics. We think that there’s been a convergence between care delivery and research — having the software and analytics pieces can help us tackle all sides of it.
“Beyond that, we see our presence not just in the clinics, but also alongside pharmaceutical companies, health systems, and insurance as well. Because we are the center for care delivery and we’re aggregating information, we could also help with insurance barriers, support Pharma in developing better therapeutics, or even expand labels for existing therapeutics. We think that there’s been a convergence between care delivery and research — having the software and analytics pieces can help us tackle all sides of it.”
Q: As the company is thinking of care delivery from a holistic perspective, in terms of devices, remote patient monitoring, and even interoperability with large systems, how do you think about overall workflow and some of the associated challenges with technology implementation?
Jimmy Qian: The population we are focusing on has a lot of comorbidities, so there are incentives to help them as much as possible to promote overall well being. Mental health care is the part that can unlock recovery from any of their other conditions. [Interoperability] is the key challenge in all of healthcare — how do we get different systems to talk to one another? We’re optimistic that recent regulatory developments have been pushing health systems and technology vendors to be more interoperable. This is definitely something that needs to be done in order to help facilitate and manage all-around care for these individuals. Something specific that we thought about for our initial customers is reducing vendor fatigue. In healthcare right now, there are so many disconnected bits and pieces of software that do one thing. If someone is a clinician that has to run their own practice, there’s no way that they’ll be able to manage all of these different softwares, especially if they’re not integrated. This is why we’re trying to bundle as much of it as possible into a single system. The way we’re able to do that is by remaining focused on our mission — we’re not going to branch out into different therapeutic areas as we want to effectively help one specific population with their mental health through a deep dive approach.
Q: Are you seeing a lot of resistance from the health systems that you might be looking to plug into? How do you think about growing the company to be a more integral part of the healthcare system?
Jimmy Qian: Given that everyone understands that we’re a unique system collecting information unlike any other company, we haven’t really been met with resistance. We’re not trying to sell into large academic systems and displace Cerner — rather, we’re really interested in new types of multimodal data at unprecedented depth. However, a sense of interoperability is a must, and recent changes on the legal side are beginning to mandate a lot of this. We’re very hopeful because we’ve talked about interoperability for a long time, but this goes beyond the regulatory side to include the technology too. There are a lot of companies out there that we’re excited about because they will unlock the information for us to work with these larger systems, and really, it all comes down to helping the patient first.
Lucia Huang: We’ve thought about early ways to integrate with health systems and one of the features in our portal is an automatic HIPAA compliant email generator to the referring provider that attaches a patient reported outcome of progress at the click of a button. True interoperability will take some time to achieve, but it is definitely important and an incentive of patients to have their care coordinated across the board.
Q: Talking a little more about your career trajectories, Jimmy having founded a few nonprofits and Lucia having taken a company from seed stage to series A, can you talk more about your journey to where you are now with Osmind? What have you learned throughout this process?
Jimmy Qian: I think it’s been really fun just building things. The key for me is finding out what the purpose of building something is and then tackling the unmet need in a different way than anyone else. Throughout the few organizations I’ve been a part of, that’s really been the essential thing I’ve tried to focus on.
“The key for me is finding out what the purpose of building something is and then tackling the unmet need in a different way than anyone else. Throughout the few organizations I’ve been a part of, that’s really been the key thing I’ve tried to focus on.”
Lucia Huang: A big thing that we’re both learning is ruthless prioritization, because as founders, there is unlimited work to do. I’ve realized that the majority of the impact that we’re going to make is going to be from a small subset of all the things that we can do. Being ruthless about how we spend time and focus our efforts is a lesson that we’re still learning.
“A big thing that we’re both learning is ruthless prioritization, because as founders, there is unlimited work to do.”
Q: What has been the biggest learning curve as Founders?
Lucia Huang: In terms of the learning curve for myself, one realization is that as a founder, you’re expected to cover so many functional areas but you are not going to be good at everything. Recognizing where your weaknesses are and having the humility to know that you can delegate to someone else has been a good lesson for me. I had to learn how to do sales but I’m very excited to be finding someone to hopefully support me on that.
Q: What is Osmind currently focusing on and what are its plans for growth in the long term?
Lucia Huang: We did Y combinator last summer and raised over $2 million from General Catalyst and a number of healthcare leadership. We launched our product in June of last year and are now in almost 200 clinics all around the country serving tens of thousands of patients and hundreds of providers. It’s been really incredible to see the adoption and great feedback we’ve received. Over the next year, our plan is going to be focused on scale and getting our EHR in as many people’s hands as possible. At the same time, we’re doing some really interesting research into the data we’ve aggregated and are hoping to publish on that too.
Q: Are there any specific goals when it comes to scaling the team?
Lucia Huang: All of our postings are fully remote, so it helps open us up to a new geographic pool. In terms of team, we’re 17 full time employees. We’re hiring a senior software engineer right now and hoping to keep it pretty lean because we’ve done so much with this lean team. Jimmy and I are always open to chat to and see if we can help in any way for budding entrepreneurs on Stanford’s campus.
To reach Osmind, check out their website at: https://www.osmind.org/