Omada Health will launch new programs for customers with depression and anxiety, the company announced yesterday. The company has entered into a perpetual licensing agreement with Lantern Health, a digital mental health company that shut down its commercial operations last August, and will integrate Lantern’s software into its existing infrastructure. Additionally, a few members of Lantern’s team will work with Omada to develop and deploy the technology.
“We’ve had a gap in this area,” Dr. Carolyn Bradner Jasik, Omada’s VP of medical affairs, told MobiHealthNews in an interview on the sidelines of the JP Morgan conference in San Francisco. “When people come through our program and we’re talking to them about healthy diet and goal setting, if they’re struggling with depression or anxiety, it’s hard to hear that message. It’s hard to take that advice and make those changes. I think it was the obvious next step for us because it’s going to make us so much more powerful in our core goal, which is to help someone take care of their chronic condition.”
What’s the impact
Depression is highly comorbid with obesity and obesity-related conditions, and the two have a causal relationship that can go both ways.
Starting with a digital diabetes prevention program, Omada Health has built a series of digital programs that combine connected devices, software and remotely-delivered coaching to help people manage chronic conditions. Last year the company expanded into diabetes and hypertension.
The company has always done screeners for depression and anxiety as part of its programs, but previously had no option but to refer customers outside the program. With Lantern’s technology, the company will instead be able to offer an add-on program with a cognitive behavioral health coach, who will work with their existing Omada health coach. Eventually, Omada also plans to offer standalone mental health packages.
Bradner Jasik and Adam Brickman, Omada’s senior director of communication and public policy, said the news is also exciting for Omada because it’s a validation of the company’s meticulous approach to the space — focusing strongly on efficacy and on building technical and regulatory infrastructures for its products.
“We spent a lot of 2017 and 2018 making sure our channel distributions were ready to go,” Brickman said. “That is going to be a big theme for us throughout this year. Whether it’s getting a specific CPT code, or really just building an eligibility system, we expect 2019 to be a year where a lot of the work we’ve been doing pays off in a big way. And in some ways that will be an endorsement that that strategy is necessary to succeed at scale.”
To some degree, Lantern’s market failure underscores the point.
“The challenge in digital health is there’s lots of great ideas, but what holds people back is their go-to-market and their operational excellence,” Bradner Jasik said. “I think that many people underestimate what’s required to both sell and operate in healthcare as it exists today, and so our capabilities around processing claims and passing security reviews and being able to articulate a clinical message with a technology platform, that’s really what’s brought us where we are today. So now working with a company like Lantern, we can help them see their amazing ideas around cognitive behavioral therapy and closing that gap realized.”
What’s the trend?
In some ways, this move brings Omada into the space with depression-focused digital therapeutics companies like Click Therapeutics, which recently signed a $300 million development deal with Otsuka, and Joyable, which launched its digital therapeutic for depression in 2017.
But Omada’s approach of integrating mental health care and chronic disease care sets it apart from the pure players in either space.
A September 2017 meta-analysis suggested that apps for depression can have consistent and wide-reaching benefits.
On the record
“Our vision for Omada has always been to provide individuals with a comprehensive suite of evidence-based digital programs to improve their health across a variety of conditions,” Omada’s cofounder and CEO Sean Duffy said in a statement. “We know how to deliver personalized interventions at scale — and we know how to effectively partner with health plans and employers. Leveraging our channels to deliver CBT for depression and anxiety will enable us to provide a more comprehensive offering, and deliver care to an entirely new clinical population. The opportunity to solidify this unique relationship with Lantern, and to build on the foundation their software and clinical protocols provide, was one that aligned perfectly with our goals.”