AbleTo Chief Medical Officer Dr. Reena Pande On The Intersection Of People And Tech

4 min read May 12, 2021
Spotlight Apps

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AbleTo has supported individuals facing emotional and behavioral health challenges since 2008, but the pandemic nearly doubled usage. Chief Medical Officer Reena Pande shares insights on why tech isn’t a panacea, tips on managing hypergrowth, and ideas for leaders to support their employees’ mental health as they return to offices.

Is technology really the answer to healthcare’s biggest woes?

The best founders know technology isn’t a solution in and of itself, but rather it’s just a tool and ultimately only part of the answer. Patients are diverse. And mental health is not one condition requiring one solution, but encompasses a heterogenous group of complex conditions that require different interventions and different modalities of care delivery.

So, the answer isn’t a one-size-fits-all app; patients will benefit most when technology and human connection are combined in the optimal ways to meet their needs. Pairing empathy, understanding, and clinical expertise with digital and virtual care solutions allows us to address the individual complexities and nuances of mental health and generate more positive health outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Over the last year, virtual therapy had its moment due to a perfect storm of social distancing paired with many people also facing increased stress. Is it here to stay?

The surge in broad telehealth utilization at the outset of the pandemic has lessened for physical health, but continues for mental health due to the acute need and acceptance of technology as an effective way to deliver mental healthcare. While access must remain a focus, high-quality mental healthcare is also paramount. And at the same time, there will be greater emphasis to address socioeconomic disparities, making sure that quality care is accessible to all and delivered in a culturally-competent manner. The acute post-COVID need has already increased the demand for skilled behavioral health clinicians as companies vie to attract and retain providers.

Today, AbleTo is a large company with 450 employees. As a company grows, how can leaders support employees’ mental health?

The first thing every company should do, especially during such trying times like the last year, is listen to employees and hear their concerns. At AbleTo, we started with an anonymous survey and have continued to do pulse surveys to understand employee needs throughout the year. We established a plan and focused on areas our employees told us were on their minds whether it was access to therapy, time off, childcare, downtime from Zoom meetings, and more.

One challenge many companies face is selecting from the exploding number of available mental health solutions, leaving employers and employees feeling overwhelmed and confused in trying to find the right care for their individual needs.

Whether it’s partnering with your company’s EAP, health plan, or external resources, it’s important to find solutions that direct employees to high-quality care that uses evidence-based methodologies to consistently demonstrate positive health outcomes.

The pandemic massively accelerated AbleTo’s business. What advice would you give founders managing teams during hypergrowth?

When your company is growing at a breakneck pace, the two most important areas are focus and culture. During the pandemic, AbleTo has remained diligently focused on maintaining the quality of our clinical interventions and adherence to our measurement-based protocols, which are delivered by our licensed therapists and coaches.

We placed particular emphasis on the training and support required as we significantly grew our network during this unprecedented time. We worked to make sure our growing network had the tools and resources needed to balance their own needs, while delivering the continued high bar of clinical standards and outcomes. As organizations scale, putting people first as you build out your core business competencies is essential.

A pioneer in telehealth, AbleTo revolutionized the way millions of Americans access quality mental healthcare, connecting people to licensed therapists and coaches via phone and video. AbleTo has conducted over 1 million patient sessions with a network of more than 1,800 providers. BCV first partnered with the company back in 2017 based on our thesis that mental and behavioral health was an increasingly important and costly part of medicine, and technology would play a vital role in delivering quality services at scale. Read our take here.

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