Venture Capital Investment in Digital Mental Health

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When the Pandemic started, business as we know it had to adapt to the rapidly changing healthcare environment. Globally, hospitals are the front line of care for COVID-19. All routine healthcare and screenings have temporarily halted, while health systems accelerate to deliver care virtually. Telehealth and digital health are now at the forefront of innovation; we are six months into the Pandemic, it is unlikely that things will return to pre-COVID levels.

Digital health has been funded by venture capital, which has traditionally been the purview of Silicon Valley; increasingly, health systems are now starting to invest in promising new solutions to support health and better manage chronic disease. A new viewpoint in JAMA Psychiatry by Dr. Ravi Shah and colleagues at Columbia University focuses on the rise of venture capital in digital mental health.

Tracking the health of investment markets is challenging amid all the global upheaval; many were concerned that digital health progress would halt, but the opposite is true. Dr. Shah highlights the significant investments in digital mental health companies; many are in the self-care space, but some, like Akili, a solution for children with attentional issues, are accessed via a provider’s referral. Companies may start as a business to consumer products or business to business and as they mature, cross over the additional business models to open new markets. The table below lists the mix of companies and their capital raised. It would appear the health of digital health is robust.

Source: doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.2847

To remain healthy, companies will have to take on the significant issues of the moment; they include privacy and transparency, who has access to your data as an end-user, and how will it be used? As a consumer, will I be able to opt-in and out to data collection? Culture also matters; on the surface, you have a culture of “move fast and break things” of Silicon Valley and “first do no harm” of healthcare, how can those differences be reconciled by meeting unmet needs? Can digital mental health address the significant needs of those with severe and persistent mental illness, or will it stay in the realm of self-care or more mild presentations of mental illness, impacting our quality of life. The next few years will see some exciting advances in how we view and support mental health care.

Thanks for reading – Trina

(Opinions are my own)


Shah RN, Berry OO. The Rise of Venture Capital Investing in Mental Health. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online September 16, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.2847

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