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This year’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference & exhibition takes place in Las Vegas. Over 40,000 healthcare technology professionals, providers, executives, vendors, and entrepreneurs will descend upon this conference to discuss and showcase products ranging from mobile apps and platforms to 3D printers. And, especially for entrepreneurs, the HX360 Innovation Pavilion and the Venture+ Forum will mix business pitches with workshops on the investment and venture capital landscape for digital health.

In fact, the conference is so large, it encompasses a size the equivalent of 40 American football fields—up from 22 football fields in 2015, and 17 football fields in 2013.

Despite this size, there is an overemphasis on physical health—that is, common conditions dealing with health conditions from the neck down. What about the neck up? The last time I had attended HIMSS, psychiatric services were barely a blip on the radar.


The Doctor Weighs In has previously covered how numerous mental health and behavioral health startups are breaking into the digital health scene. Here are a few of the stories:

Now, in 2016, we’ve seen an explosion of startups—a 44% increase in 4 months as registered on AngelList—that are breaking into this field.

But these startups are still in nascent, early stages. HIMSS has—to my count—three sessions and exhibitors that specialize in behavioral health. These three exhibitors are the only three that are breaking into this space at HIMSS:

  • CHADIS, started by behavioral developmental pediatricians, is a web platform that provides screening questionnaires with reports and links to resources.
  • Valera Health, which supports patients with conditions like depression and anxiety that may impact their physical health. (Disclosure: I do advise, but do not receive compensation, for this company.)
  • Netsmart, an established company that provides the myAvatar and CareFabric systems to run behavioral organizations’ finances, business operations, and electronic health record.

HIMSS offers three behavioral health sessions as well:

  • Redesigning Mental Health: Technology Driving Outcomes: UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland implemented its EHR systems at the same time their Division of Mental Health redesigned their workflows. Their challenge: 9 different subspecialty practices, with different documentation and workflows, and 150 full-time providers with 12 different clinical backgrounds.
  • Filling the Gaps in Behavioral Health: A panel featuring leaders from myStrength, Ginger.io, Carolinas Healthcare, and Joyable discuss how technology can help with psychiatric conditions like social anxiety and depression.
  • Neuro Wearables: Bringing Portable EEG Home into Healthcare: Exponential Medicine speaker Ariel Garten will present wearable neurological and mood-sensing products from her company, InteraXon.

Finally, in their Venture+ entrepreneur competition—complete with investors, industry partners, and networking sessions—three of the 18 presenting companies will discuss behavioral health:

  • newNRG, while focusing on sleep apnea and weight loss, uses psychotherapeutic approaches—including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Behavioural Therapy, Motivational Interventions, Strength Based Approach, and Schema Therapy—along with mood maps, self-esteem modules, and relaxation education to coach patients. Their pitch: “As a newNRG user, you will have an emotional coach in your pocket anytime, anywhere for life!
  • Mevoked will present a perinatal and postpartum depression & anxiety app and platform that uses their own subjective mood measurements and graphs it out, in PatientsLikeMe fashion.
  • Claritas Mindscience is “precision behavioral digital therapy” for addictions, featuring Craving to Quit, a 21-session mindfulness training app for smoking cessation, moderated support community/discussion with journal entries, weekly live video chats. The company is looking to move towards three new conditions: “unhealthy eating” (which, I surmise, is a friendlier phrase for eating disorders), substance and drug use disorders, and “general addictions.”

So there are only these nine items above at HIMSS that touches on psychiatric health. Looking on the bright side, I am looking forward to learning about how the world of connected health enhances other specialty and primary medical care. Let’s translate those innovations to behavioral healthcare as well. See you in Vegas!

Steven Chan, MD, MBA (@StevenChanMD)
Dr. Chan is a Clinical Informatics fellow at UC San Francisco (UCSF)'s Division of Hospital Medicine, serving as editorial boardmember for the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) Mental Health, and develops cutting-edge research in the areas of digital mental health, with applications for cultural psychiatry and underserved minority health. Steve's ideas, thoughts, and research have been featured in JAMA, Healthcare, JMIR (Journal of Medical Internet Research), Wired, PBS, and NPR Ideastream. Steve serves as Vice Chair for the Workgroup on Mental Health & Psychiatric Apps at the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a part of the Committee on Mental Health Information Technology.

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