Ginger.io is using the power of big data to disrupt the current mental healthcare delivery model, and it is driving improved outcomes and reduced costs in the process. Essentially a data analytics company, Ginger.io performs as a healthcare platform that monitors patients and helps providers intervene in more timely and effective ways. The field of mental health stands to gain from improved care delivery in terms of both outcomes and costs; in fact, an estimated $80 billion is spent in excess healthcare costs due to lack of timely and effective mental health treatment. And, depression is the #1 indicator of long term outcomes with patients with chronic disease.
Research conducted at the MIT Media Lab revealed that real world behavior can be captured through a user’s interactions with mobile devices. These behaviors have direct correlations to various symptoms relating to conditions and states, such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and suicidal ideation. The application collects data on a user’s movement, screen usage, communication (telephone and texting) habits, as well as patient reported data points like medication compliance, mood, etc. Research studies conducted by the MIT team have shown that such data can correlate in the following ways:
- Movement data (physical isolation, lethargy, restlessness)
- Screen usage data (insomnia/ hypersomnia, restlessness, diminished interest)
- Communication data (social isolation, support network outreach)
In turn, these metrics can be very informative to both the patient and provider in regards to impending episodes in mental health disturbances. The patients’ involvement is simple – they go about their daily routine as the app collects the above data for a few days until a baseline is established. It then detects deviations in behavior via the platform’s analytics capabilities. Once large enough deviations are detected, alerts are sent to the patient to encourage him/ her to modify behavior. If severe enough, alerts are also sent to the provider so that a more timely intervention can be carried out.
It is a truly win-win-win scenario: patients receive better, more timely care, physicians are able to more effectively and efficiently monitor their patients, and healthcare costs stand to see huge savings.
Details regarding the precise value capture model are not yet public – perhaps in part because Ginger.io is still prioritizing establishing evidence based literature surrounding its intervention. But it is clear that monetization opportunities can arise from a number of sources. They are currently working with 25 institutional partners, and they receive some amount of revenue from these partners. In the future, they may be able to monetize their data and trends to researchers and other institutions who are interested in the data sets. Additionally, once more evidence based literature can be established in the mental health domain, as well as those relating to their efforts in diabetes, pain, cancer, and chronic disease management, insurance companies are likely to offer reimbursements.
Future Opportunities and Challenges.
In an era where 91% of people describe that their cell phones are always within a three foot proximity, harnessing data from mobile devices can offer huge opportunities. Ginger.io is well aware of how potentially easy data harnessing can be, and they intend to find additional clinical scenarios by which they can leverage their analytical capabilities. By starting in mental health, they are proving their concept while, in many ways, paving the way for this innovative model of care delivery. Further, their timing is perfect, as the wave of preventative medicine and wellness promotion will only work in their favor.
They are among the few digital medicine platforms that has been able to successfully begin to apply a rigorous evidence based approach in establishing their platform’s credibility, but they have a long way to go for other clinical areas they hope to focus on. But, this is a challenge common to all upcoming healthcare mHealth applications, and their established expertise can serve as a huge advantage.
Another major challenge will be integrating these interventions into the clinical workflow, a task whose difficulty can not be understated. The only way to be more widely accepted, however, circles back to proving the efficacy of the intervention with evidence-based publications.
For now, Ginger.io faces only a very small handful of competitors who do not appear to be nearly as far along in the commercialization process. If they move quickly, they may stand an excellent chance to gain significant market share in this very young space.