New York City-based AbleTo, a tech-enabled behavioral health company that offers a digital platform to connect people with licensed therapists and coaches, has launched a three-minute assessment tool designed to screen people for common behavioral health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
It’s a departure from the company’s usual strategy. Rather than requiring an individual whose employer offers AbleTo to go through a formal program, whereby they can receive coaching and personalized health and wellness plans, individuals can privately access the 22-question, app-based screener without officially enrolling in a program. The tool is based on clinically-validated assessments such as the PHQ2 and GAD2, which screen for common behavioral and mental health conditions, and is intended for people dealing with stress from any number of things such as major life events or transitions, substance abuse, trauma, depression or anxiety. Once taking the questionnaire, people have the option to immediately connect with a representative to enroll in one of AbleTo’s programs or learn about other resources (not necessarily from AbleTo) available.
“The main thing here is this is someone who is aware of AbleTo, who is eligible to access it through their employer health benefits platform, but they can take the assessment and find out what programs could work for them without having to discuss it with anyone else first,” Aimee Peters, AbleTo’s chief clinical officer, told MobiHealthNews. “The screener will then flag the top three areas of need for that individual, and they will have a choice at that time to figure out what to do about it. Again, nobody else needs to know about it yet if they don’t want them to.”
While not the app isn't diagnostic, AbleTo’s aim is to improve access and answers around mental health and wellbeing by equipping individuals with immediate opportunities to connect with a therapist as well as information to go forward, rather then just assigning them a risk score or static list of resources.
“One in five people are dealing with emotional or mental health problems, but 50 percent of them aren’t dealing with it,” AbleTo’s VP of Product, Jason Goodhand told MobiHealthNews. “And that’s from a lot of different reasons, including they don’t have resources in their area, stigma around these kind of conditions, or just not realizing they may be at risk. We want to reach them in a way they feel more comfortable, which may not be face to face, and it may not be enrolling in a program right away.”
Additionally, Goodhand noted, some people may avoid bringing their concerns about their behavioral health to the attention of employers – such as people on the police force or other occupations that don’t historically make room for vulnerabilities around emotional or mental health. That said, people do need to provide their email to get their results, but they don’t need to take action in the form of reaching out to a therapist or other representative right away.
“We want to make sure you come back to it, but you don’t have to until you are ready,” Goodhand said. “We’ll continue to reach out to people with educational material to raise awareness. Maybe they end up going somewhere completely different that is completely outside of our current business model, but our goal here is education and awareness.”
As the company rolls out the tool, Peters and Goodhand said they will continue to build out their team and technological infrastructure to scale the platform to more individuals.
“This is our way for patients who are already covered by their health plans to get access to us, to raise their hands rather than have a nurse case manager who is working with them because they have already been identified as at-risk,” said Peters.