Insurance & Mental Health: what are the challenges for insurers?

The H+ Digital Health Innovation Programme builds on strategic priorities of the ITHM community by laying special emphasis on 5 health verticals. As the first topic, we discuss mental health challenges for the insurance industry with Markus Homann, Managing Director at Generali Health Solutions and part of our H+ Expert Panel.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have had a deep impact on the world around us with detrimental effects on people’s mental and psychological health. The current health crisis, however, associated with high levels of distress in the population, has undoubtedly led to an increase in mental health awareness. The public is becoming more and more aware of the impact of mental health on individual and social wellbeing and the shared condition of the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced stigma and taboos surrounding mental health topics. According to a recent report by the statutory health insurer TK Data, there has been a 40% increase in mental health support requests and a 20% increase in sick days due to mental health issues. 

Customers, thanks to increasing awareness in society, are more open to different solutions and interventions, including digital solutions which can offer therapeutic approaches and support positive behavioral changes. These solutions help fulfill the market need: with long waiting times for in-person therapy, mental health patients can rely on digital solutions which are accessible at any time, easy to use and anonymous. Alongside the advantages during the post-ambulant phase of the patient journey, digital mental health solutions provide additional data sources to increase awareness and trigger a diagnosis – such as voice biomarkers or emotion recognition. These enable patients to receive a timely diagnosis and intervention on mental conditions. 

Markus Homann, MD at Generali Health Solutions

We have asked Markus Homann, Managing Director at Generali Health Solutions and part of our H+ Expert Panel to discuss his view on mental health solutions and the challenges for patients and insurers.

What are the current challenges in the mental health care journey?

If you look at the experience of someone with a mental health problem, you will see that there are problems at all points of the journey, starting with diagnosis or even before. We know that in the case of depression, for example, probably more than half of the people won’t get an appropriate diagnosis. Often, patients themselves may not feel well but seek professional help only when things get really bad. Secondly, once diagnosed, it is very hard to get professional treatment, too many people are attended by primary care doctors who may not be very familiar with what the disease takes. In addition, the capacity for dealing with mental health problems with a psychotherapist is way too small, they encounter a very long waiting time, or they don’t get psychotherapy treatment at all. And on top of that, there is also a very small degree of adherence to drug therapy, which is proved efficient, but many people are reluctant to do it. You could summarize these issues: too little, too late. Many of the points described matter to patients, insurers, and employers. For example, once you have an institutionally treated episode of depression, it likely is that you are going to get it again and it’s going to be costly for the insurance company and of course, it’s also a problem for employers because mental health is one of the most frequent causes of absence at work. 

Four out of 20 startups selected for H+ Digital Health Programme address the focus area of mental health

What are you looking for in mental health solutions?

I am very open to different mental health solutions. On the one hand, we are looking for low threshold interventions that help people get to a diagnosis and that help people get engaged and deal with their potential issues. On the other hand, we think we need to do more to counter the scarcity of psychotherapy resources. We know that there are not enough therapists to cater to patients, so we need something that at least alleviates this problem. I won’t tell any startup what this solution should look like. I am very curious about what they have to offer and what they have thought.

For our H+ Digital Health Innovation Programme we have selected the following mental health startups which focus on innovative and data-driven solutions:

Mobio Interactive has developed and commercialised an AI-powered digital theragnostic platform that delivers clinically validated psychotherapy programmes personalised to every patient using digital biomarkers that quantify human brain states without relying on a wearable.

Mentalis offers an app-based solution to patients diagnosed with mental, behavioral, and/or neurodevelopmental disorders. Patients receive individual support not only during their treatment but also coaching sessions via phone shortly before and after being discharged from treatment.

PeakProfiling builds algorithms for detecting diseases such as ADHD, depression, and several other indications analyzing characteristics of the voice. Additionally, they create algorithms for the detection of softer conditions such as fatigue, well-being, and pain.

Salute is a digital therapy application that helps cancer patients overcome psychological distress during and after their illness. Along with psychotherapeutic online modules, users can connect to a personal psychologist through regular chat and video functionalities to ensure comprehensive support and care.

Join us on April 6th for our H+ Digital Health Innovation Programme Final Showcase, “Health X Insurance”, for innovative startups pitches and discussions on digital health solutions with our community of insurers, tech companies and cross-industry players. Register here.

Text: Gaia Ravazzi