Written by Morgan Hewett, CEO and Co-Founder of Options MD.
Treatment-resistant depression (TRD) is probably the biggest blank space in mental health care today, affecting a number of people 5.5 million adults in the US Among the 16 million Americans diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder each year, treatment-resistant cases account for more than 56% of the health care burden, nearly 50% of the unemployment burden and 32% of the productivity burden, according to research. from the National Institutes of Health.
I have seen this play out firsthand in what a close family member went through.
He was severely depressed, and over a period of eight years he tried 12 different medications. My family spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on mental health treatment out of pocket, and it simply didn’t work. Nothing helped, and he lost hope along the way, which resulted in suicide attempts.
The consequences were even greater for my best friend and co-founder, Kyle Pierce, who lost a relative as a result after battling TRD for two years.
We came to learn the hard way that they were not alone.
He is part of a category of mental health patients that doctors consider “treatment resistant”, which simply means they have a debilitating chronic mental illness that does not respond to two or more treatments. There are currently 32 million mental health patients like our loved ones in the US, and their numbers are increasing at a rate of 3x year over year.
These patients are four times more expensive to treat than untreated patients, accounting for $64 billion in annual expenditures. And, while the system often gives up on these patients after first-line medications don’t work for them, the patients themselves usually don’t give up that easily. They are extremely motivated to get the right treatment and they are looking for relief but they often don’t have the resources to get that relief.
Simply put, patients want better treatment options and clinicians need help moving them beyond a trial-and-error approach.
That’s the place MD options Options MD is a telemedicine platform that helps patients with resistant mental illness find and stay on the right treatment faster. We do this through a proprietary software platform that predicts the best treatment options for patients, designed to address the nuances of patients who have previously had difficulty treating them.
Kyle and I came to Techstars UnitedHealthcare with little more than an idea and a business plan, but with the support of this community they were able to turn it into a business. Techstars was the first investor who really believed in us and encouraged us before we even applied, with our mentors Matt Miller and Anna Barber telling us that our idea was something that was needed around the world.
Of course, we have passed through some tough pivots along the way. Options MD was originally a software company with a SaaS business model. After testing we determined that approach would be very difficult to monetize, so at the end of last year we began the process of bringing physicians onto our platform and preparing to deliver care to just.
It was a very scary decision, and our industry advisers told us not to do it. They all said we had no idea how difficult it is to deliver care. Although they were right, one of the joys of being a founder is naivety and now I’m glad we made the pivot. I remember calling Matt Miller with tears in my eyes, I was so afraid to make that move and not knowing how to communicate it to our other investors. He walked me through the process and through that period of time Techstars kept believing in us and kept investing in us.
In total we have raised $4 million, our community has more than 6,000 patients, making it one of the largest communities in the world for treatment-resistant depression patients, and hundreds of lives have been saved us through our work.
None of this would be possible without Techstars.