One of the frustrating experiences that patients encounter is trying to find a psychiatrist or psychotherapist that matches their needs and personality.
At the most recent American Telemedicine Association convention in Baltimore, Cloud 9 described how their iOS application aims to ease the pain of finding a new mental health provider. Users can search their network by expertise — such as type of psychiatric disorders treated or psychoanalytic style — plus location and gender. They can even create a profile to share with their counselor and schedule an appointment immediately. Psychotherapists can receive notifications regarding the schedule and their patients, schedule their own sessions, and create their own profiles to be matched up with new patients.
We sat down with CEO J.C. Adams and COO Scott Elrod to learn more about why they created Cloud 9.
What is Cloud 9?
J.C. ADAMS: Cloud 9 is innovation for mental healthcare. We [are] building this to help patients and providers. Within that niche, our focus is on mobility and ease of use when it comes to telemental health.
But there are a lot of other telemedicine applications already in existence. What distinguishes this from other platforms?
J.C. ADAMS: We’re designed specifically for patients and providers of mental healthcare. [With our product] they can build their own mini-EMR because most EMRs are not suitable for mental health providers. We have client intake forms and assessment tools designed for mental healthcare. And at later stages, we will have additional patient-generated data capability supporting the telemental health process.
SCOTT ELROD: I think if you refine the question, [you’re asking], “Why aren’t licensed mental health professionals using the latest technologies that traditional health specialists have access to? The reason is they want something very simple and very quick for the provider, and also for the patient. That’s what Cloud 9’s whole business model and founding principle is.
How can patients and mental health providers get this for their device?
J.C. ADAMS: We’re currently in private beta, and we’re testing this with select providers with their patients as well as [other] pilot programs. We will soon be in the App Stores when we release the next version of our product.
How much will this cost?
J.C. ADAMS: It’s free to download by patients and providers. We provide connectivity between the patients and the providers. We also provide a practice management tool and a scheduling management tool, and we take a fee from the providers.
SCOTT ELROD: Think of it as a per-encounter cost, rather than a locked-in monthly drain.
So how can patients find providers? PsychologyToday.com and Hangouts already have directories of providers.
J.C. ADAMS: We’re offering a directory that’s Yelp-style, and in the next version we’ll focus on better connectivity so that we’re not just matching specialization and other characteristics that are easily detectable, but also personality traits so that you find a personality match with your provider. Right now, you see metadata on the provider such as their picture, where they’re from, a little bit about them, and then when you click further, you see their bios. But in the next version, we’re developing algorithms to match them better.
SCOTT ELROD: It also includes cultural factors, and [finding] someone who understands my [as the patient’s] job, such as the airline pilot industry. You can’t do that with modern counselor shopping.
That sounds very efficient. Currently, people have to try out new psychotherapists individually, and it can get very expensive as they still have to pay each therapist per intake. How will you develop this matching algorithm?
J.C. ADAMS: The old way of trying to find the right match and specialization and personality fit is time-consuming. [You have] to drive around…You still have to travel to where that person is and lay on their couch. Now you can get this service from the comfort and privacy of your own couch whenever you’re in need, wherever you are. Taking this a step further, our user assessment tools can generate matching criteria for therapist specialization. We can also determine a users cultural and personality preferences to find an even better therapist match. This is a huge benefit to patient’s and provider’s process.
SCOTT ELROD: You can [perform this] concept with existing telecounseling services, but we’re designed from the beginning not from [the viewpoint of] heavy-duty telepresence systems, like Cisco-branded webcams. It’s being completely revolutionized by mobile devices, but no one has [yet] built a wonderful app for telemental health.
J.C. ADAMS: Telehealth is here and has made its way into the mental health arena, and our goal is to build a better-designed product with total mobility. That mobile platform also allows us to acquire patient-generated data and we’re very anxious about announcing them, and release them so that patients can learn more about themselves. And if they get that data, they can share that with their mental health professional when they’re outside of their sessions to improve patient outcomes. We want that service to be free and available to anyone that has access to our app.