Pressure On Behavioral Health Creates Need For Tech Solution

How Tech Relieves Pressure On Behavioral Health

Behavioral healthcare has been underserved during the pandemic.

Although the Census Bureau has estimated that 42 percent of Americans reported pandemic-related depression symptoms during the month of December, the sector has had to become secondary to an unprecedented global healthcare crisis.

“Physical distancing has consequences that we need to talk about: isolation, loneliness, boredom, monotony, stress, anxiety and fear,” read a recent article in parenting blog ACEsConnection. “Mental health often takes a backseat when physical health is at risk. Health is both physical and mental, and when we prioritize the physical, it is at the expense of our mental wellbeing. Quarantine may yield so many negative mental health consequences, it is dangerous to overlook how it is impacting our mental wellbeing.”

That’s a problem that can be partially alleviated through technology, said Mark Belles, CEO of Behavioral Holdings, a Battery Ventures platform launching Thursday (Feb. 18). And that opportunity has only become more apparent in the last 12 months as the pandemic has put escalating pressure on the segment.

“COVID is really shining a light on this space like never before,” Belles said. “The stigma around talking about mental health issues is starting to come down. And as people have spent the better part of the last year dealing with COVID in whatever situation that is, whether they’ve had a loved one who’s passed, or struggled trying to be cognizant of the guidelines and the regulations. It’s been a difficult year.”

A difficult year that has shined a spotlight on how much support behavioral health needs when it comes to tapping into modern technology to better serve patient groups. Technology that Battery Ventures is committed to offering via Behavioral Holdings, created to give behavioral health providers a cloud-based software platform with which to better manage their practices.

To that end, Belles told PYMNTS, Battery is starting out leveraging two existing products in which it has already made significant investments: Welligent, a Norfolk, Virginia-based company specializing in cloud-based, electronic health records and other industry-specific workflow software; and DATIS HR Cloud, a Tampa, Florida, provider of cloud-based, human resources and payroll software. To start, Belles said, those two firms will continue operating independently under their own brands beneath what he called the “great Behavioral Holdings umbrella.”

But that is just the starting point, Belles said, explaining that the eventual goal for Behavioral Holdings is to integrate a suite of software services that offers behavioral health players like addiction treatment services; intellectual, developmental disabilities and autism services; child and family services; and special education organizations access to an end-to-end cloud-based software solution to manage their business more efficiently and effectively.

“Battery sees an opportunity to help bring together a fragmented market, and an under-invested in market from a technology standpoint and to build out that full stack,” he said. “While there’s an opportunity to do well for the shareholders here, there’s also an opportunity to just do tremendous good in the market. I want to be clear, we’re not curing cancer here, but we are supporting organizations who can help our families get healthier, who can help the people that we know and care about. There is tremendous opportunity for us to bring value to the world and make a good return for our shareholders.”

But, Belles said, it is an opportunity that still has a lot of development ahead of it — when PYMNTS spoke to him, he was in the middle of his second day on the job. Among his objectives to still be achieved is a virtual meeting with his employees and beginning to lay out that long-term road map to take on a market that is large, fragmented and badly in need of a new offering care of a cloud-based service that will constantly be updating and evolving in real time as opposed to once a year as most players in the space are used to.

Moreover, Belles said, to create that end-to-end full stack solution, Battery has a few more acquisitions ahead of it beyond the two it announced Thursday. Although Belles didn’t have any specific targets to call out, he did note that as Battery looks for additional partners, the main focus areas will be searching out software providers with a complimentary workflow that are also focused on behavioral health and human services.

By the end of 2021, Belles said, the goal is to have at least two more acquisitions under the company’s belt and be further down the road in developing that full stack software suite for behavioral health professionals. The market has long needed it, and in the wake of the pandemic has run out of time to wait on it.

“That’s why Battery is so committed to this space,” he said. “We’re going to target additional acquisitions to help us build out the platform, and I’m very, very confident that this is a growing space in behavioral health, and there is a ton of organic opportunity for us out there as well.”