Mental health problems such as depression, are increasingly widespread. They are also costly — two of the most common mental health conditions, depression and anxiety, cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year, according to WHO.
Estonian startup Therasync aims to save specialists’ time and guarantee that help reaches as many patients as possible. Investors have a chance to contribute to the innovative solution.
A simple idea for a complex issue
Therasync is based on a simple idea – the startup creates an environment that helps several specialists simultaneously analyse a patient grappling with mental health issues.
“Currently, the most critical bottlenecks in the field of mental health are the ineffective and time-consuming collections of health data/ patient history, data fragmentation and the lack of inclusion of patients in their own treatment process,” explains Ann Leen Mahhov, CEO and co-founder of Therasync.
“The treatment of depression is a complex process which requires the intervention of and cooperation with various specialists. In 2021, the Health Insurance Fund mapped the treatment journey of a working-age person suffering from depression. It turned out that the cooperation between the specialists of different fields is currently insufficient and unregulated.”
Mahhov adds that Therasync creates a common communication platform for treatment teams, which includes the patient, their loved ones and all members of the treatment team – the GP, the mental health nurse, the psychologist, and the psychiatrist. They are currently testing the first version (MVP) of the Therasync platform and usability testing started at the beginning of March. The platform acts as a case manager for a patient’s health data.
“We save on the time of mental health specialists and offer health clinics the opportunity to increase the quality of their services,” says Mahhov. “In the first half of this year, we will begin testing the platform with treatment teams as well as patients.”
The market is big enough
“Since the creation of Therasync, our team has organised various workshops with patients and clinicians, and also done a concept test on the Pipedrive platform. In addition, we have carried out research and created a prototype together with the NGO “Peaasi” (Head Matter – ed.) which involved more than six hundred patients,” Mahhov gives an overview of the activities to date.
Mahhov estimates that the market for the Therasync product is rapidly growing. According to data from the World Health Organisation, more than 280 million people suffer from depression worldwide. “It is one of the most common mental health illnesses in the world,” she says. The need to treat depression is evident as it leads to a significant loss of health and employment ability, increases the need for emergency medical care and hospitalisation as well as the risk of suicidal behaviour.
Recently, awareness of mental health issues has significantly increased, adds Mahhov. “This applies especially to the last couple of years, which is likely due to several factors – the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought about an increase in stress, anxiety and depression as well as other mental health issues,” she says. “The pandemic proved that solutions not widely used before turned out to be very successfully applicable. In extraordinary circumstances both patients and specialists had to get used to digital solutions and environments,” she says, referring to the increase in online appointments which remain popular to date and enable treatment to reach patients outside big cities.
“Also, everything to do with the war in Ukraine has impacted on people’s mental health. Therefore, many more people seek information about mental health and opportunities to take better care of and support their mental health,” she says.
Social media can also have a negative impact on mental health. “There are many research studies which confirm that the regular use of social media may lead to the development of mental health problems, especially among young people,” says Mahhov.
However, social media also has its positive aspects. “It enables more access to mental health resources. There are many influencers and specialists who share evidence-based valuable information through social media channels, thereby helping to raise awareness and reduce stigmas,” says the CEO of Therasync.
According to Mahhov, it is a positive development that over the past 10-20 years, there has been a significant reduction in prejudice, misconceptions and ignorance around mental health issues. “It has made it easier for people to seek help and talk openly about their concerns,” she says. “Campaigns to raise awareness have become more frequent in recent years, which in turn encourages people to intervene early, to notice the need for help for themselves and their loved ones, and to turn to a specialist if necessary.”
Mahhov believes that this has led to an increased demand for discussion of mental health topics in society. “There have been societal and cultural changes,” she says. Technological advances are also helping to address mental health concerns.
A diverse team
Therasync has the expertise to help address these challenges, Mahhov says. “We have a very diverse team, with team members with experience in medicine, project management, product design and marketing.” She points out that Therasync has clinical expertise and practical experience in the healthcare system, as well as technological expertise.
“All of this helps us to ensure that the solutions we develop are evidence-based and in line with current regulations and legislation,” confirms Mahhov. “In doing so, we take into account the technical requirements to ensure user-friendliness, security and efficiency of the service. Thanks to the diverse backgrounds of our team members, we come up with truly unique ideas.”
Mahhov mentions openness, transparent communication, courage, and the willingness to learn from mistakes to continually improve as core values of the startup. “Our biggest advantage is a small but cohesive team working towards a common goal, but also the understanding that we cannot change the world alone. That’s why we have involved field experts, end users, technology companies and universities in our development process,” says Mahhov.
The platform is open to a wide range of investors as well as professionals in their fields to join the venture. “We are currently looking for funding as well as sector partners for the development process,” says Mahhov. “In the near future, we will start recruiting for new positions in our team, and through LinkedIn, anyone interested can sign up to participate in testing the Therasync platform or get in touch for a demo session.”