Data is essential to building a better mental health care system; here’s why

Guest blog by Scott Kollins, PhD, Chief Medical Officer, Holmusk

Each May, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month. While awareness is certainly an important component of tackling our nation’s mental health crisis, the theme chosen this year by NAMI highlights that more than just awareness is needed. It is time to come “Together for Mental Health” and to take action to transform the mental health care ecosystem.

At Holmusk, we are tackling this transformation by advancing the frontier of evidence generation. Millions of patients each year require mental health care, and their providers take notes on their symptoms, behaviors, and functioning—all valuable information that goes into patients’ electronic health records. This rich and informative data source, which we call real-world data, usually goes untapped, representing wasted potential—and, more concretely, treatments that remain undeveloped and patients who are untreated.

Our vision is to change that. With our flagship product and data analytics platform, NeuroBlu, we extract real-world evidence to shed new light into the presentation and treatment of mental health conditions. Our large and rapidly growing database, which fuels research conducted on the NeuroBlu platform, contains millions of data points for many indications, including major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The real-world data contained within our database are a great example of the theme “Together for Mental Health.” Our powerful database, which contains clinically meaningful information from nearly 1 million individual patients, is made possible through the decisions of clinics and health systems that have joined us in a shared vision to improve mental health through the application of real-world evidence. We are inspired each time we add new patients to our database, as it signifies two things: that another entity has entrusted us with the critical mission of ensuring the safety and security of patient data, and that these new patients will come together with our existing data to make a difference for the future of mental health.

The importance of real-world data—and the need for a revamped system to generate better evidence from those data—has been recognized at a federal level, both in President Biden’s commitment to bolster funding for mental health, and in recent comments from FDA Commissioner Robert Califf. We are invigorated to see this ongoing national conversation on mental health, and we look forward to doing our part to help shape the conversation and build a new system that places real-world evidence at the forefront.

As this year’s Mental Health Month theme suggests, we are only one piece of a complex puzzle that will need to be assembled by multiple stakeholders to truly transform mental health. To that end, we are ready to undertake collaborations and partnerships with entities that want to come together for mental health. We have enjoyed conversations on this important topic with organizations like The Kennedy Forum, the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the FDA, and others. We’ve also entered into collaborations to grow our database and improve patient outcomes with health systems and clinics such as UT Health, The Harris Center, and Metrocare Services. We are also excited about discussions in the coming months with additional health systems, as well as patient advocacy groups, about ways we can innovate and work together to use data and evidence to drive change.

The engagement of all stakeholders is needed to move this conversation forward and transform both research and care for mental health. We see great opportunity for many of these players to leverage our platform, from pharma companies that need real-world evidence to speed research and development to payers that need to better understand comparative outcomes to enable value-based care. We also have deep experience empowering patients and providers to have a direct impact on mental health. Our Management and Supervision Tool, currently deployed in the U.K., provides clinical decision support and case management for providers, while our mConnect and mHaven solutions help patients manage their own mental health.

We are continuously working to make improvements and to grow our database so that we can use real-world evidence to answer challenging questions in the mental health space. Mental health is an area with myriad critical needs, and true innovation has been stagnant for quite a while. However, we are confident that by working together and by harnessing the power of technology, we can make a real impact.