headspace health It revealed two acquisitions this year, the latest of which comes earlier this month when the digital mental health company announced the purchase of mental health app Shine.
In a crowded square In mental health startups, the company is using acquisitions to increase its products and add new capabilities. Leslie Witt, Headspace’s chief production and design officer, said the Shine deal is part of a larger effort to provide content that caters to more groups, including people of color, women and the LGBTQIA+ community.
Headspace Health too Sayana, the maker of artificial intelligence-enabled mental health and sleep tracking apps. And Headspace itself is the result of a merger between meditation app Headspace and virtual mental healthcare company Ginger, which closed nearly a year ago.
Witt sat with Moby Health News To discuss the company’s acquisition strategy, how its offering could change in the future and what’s next for the competitive digital mental health sector.
MobiHealth news: So, this wasn’t Headspace’s first acquisition this year. How do you choose your acquisition goals? Do you think you will continue at a similar pace?
Leslie Witt: I think, you see, the long-rumored consolidation of mental health and behavioral health is starting to happen. In some ways, the greater part of our story that goes with that is the proper integration of Ginger and Headspace.
But we see a lot of opportunity through three lenses. Most of the acquisitions we’ve done, as a joint entity and some that we’ve done separately, fit the lens of any content that aligns with our core mission and helps increase our reach from a self-serve mental health perspective, capabilities that bring new levels of technology – particularly around Artificial intelligence, conversation and society – then talent.
It’s all been within the small gaps, where we’re not looking to maintain their offerings as stand-alone, but instead to incorporate the talent they bring to the table in our core areas of prioritization, acceleration of our capacity building and then augmentation of our content libraries.
MHN: I’ve been in Headspace for about two years, and it wasn’t long before merging with Ginger. How has the experience changed from the producer’s point of view?
Wet: I’m going to share with you a little bit about why I joined Headspace, which was basically to answer what we’ve been hearing from our potential members – often members who came in and then didn’t find what they needed, which is high intensity mental health services and care. And from the buyers from our establishment, they were seeing this beloved brand, a popular brand that attracts 30%, 50% of its employee base to sign up and open the front door for care.
But this front door led only so far. I basically believe in the power of mindfulness and meditation tools, but they can’t meet all mental health needs. Especially when someone is in a state of acute anxiety and severe depression, they need to access professional and human services.
For Headspace, this led to the immediate realization that we had no viable, fast-forward paths without incorporation, and Ginger was the perfect partner to pair with. We’ve been working through this landscape of services over the past year to ensure we can truly open the front door to everyone’s care. We can figure out who you are and what you need, evaluate your goals and sort you with a personal ability to get the right kind of care delivered to the right start. We put you on a path where we truly establish the dimensions of a lifelong mental health journey, helping you build practice habits that give you a deeper capacity for self-care that can expand when needed.
MHN: What are some of your goals for changing your offerings in the future?
Wet: The first is customization – not just for services, but for measurement and results – so we can stay constantly in the learning and improvement loop as we understand what you need from the start, give you the right thing, and assess whether or not it really exists. For you, and do it on an individual and aggregate level.
We’re building what I often call the middle part, the bridge that exists between the Headspace app’s self-service content and text-based training, telemedicine, and remote psychiatry for Ginger.
To really focus on more clinical and programmatic content, we launched a stress program. It’s a 30-day program that truly takes you on a science-backed medical and behavioral approach from an introduction to stress reduction to a stress-reducing habit and exercise. We do the same across anxiety and sleep, and we see a lot of potential to start hybridizing the interaction between training and the level of human support into the core product itself.
And then, last but not least, I think we have a lot of opportunities around the community. We almost see people participate in some sort of cohort-based way around certain areas of the content. [For example,] We see people coming to Headspace in moments of struggle with infertility and we see a lot of potential and a desire to start connecting with the community and peer-based support.
MHN: There are a lot of digital mental health companies out there right now, and I mentioned earlier that we might be at the beginning of a composite wave. How do you think the total area will change this year?
Wet: Some of the ways I see the game changing is that we’re going back, in very good ways, to some pre-COVID standards. And with that, I think there is a lot of pressure [figuring out] What is the continuity and importance of telehealth.
What we generally find is that of all telehealth services, the ones that are most stable in digital format are actually behavioral health.
We are beginning to tend to address some of the adolescent mental health crisis. I think it’s not being dealt with enough now. And as the mother of an 11-year-old twin and seeing what’s going on inside this landscape, there must be more entrants to this space. And we need to celebrate those who were already there and make sure they continue to expand their capabilities and reach for everyone.
We also see where companies have played a large role in the tendency for employees to access mental health services. More and more need and support is coming from the public sector. We have a relationship with L.A. County, and we see a lot of potential to partner with governments, with educational institutions, and more broadly with health systems in order to ensure that health equity and health equity goals are met.
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