An Austin-based company is taking on the leading cause of disability worldwide. And it's not a biotech company.
With one in four adults experiencing mental illness every year and one in 17 suffering from a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, our health system can fall short in treating and addressing mental health issues that often lead to addiction, hospitalization or death.
Enter Cloud9. Cloud9 is a mobile app for behavioral health that streamlines connections between patient and provider. The company was founded by JC Adams who says he started the company after losing friends to mental health issues.
Cloud9 gives patients the ability to assess their mental health state, talk to a therapist though secure video and track their mental and emotional states through self-reporting. The company is also integrating peripheral biometric monitoring devices -- think Apple Watch or Jawbone -- to help understand what physical states affect a patient's mental well-being.
Tackling the patient side of mental health is one thing but Cloud9's app can also increase productivity for healthcare providers.
After the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 and the rollout of Obamacare, there is now a much larger pool of patients who can get mental health services paid for by insurance. Demand for services could outpace supply.
"We need solutions to create efficiency," said Adams. "The question is where are they going to go? We have a fixed number of psychiatrists and psychologists."
"By using these virtual technologies we can create a lot of efficiencies as to how patient need gets routed to the best optimally-available at that time provider so there's not these long wait times that exist," said Adams.
And Cloud9 gives people who suffer from mental health disorders another option besides visiting an emergency room. Increasingly, emergency rooms are the entry point for those who suffer from mental health disorders, which has been driving up wait times across the country. In particular for the impoverished and rural communities, access to appropriate psychiatric care is not readily available.
"We want to empower them to be able to deal with some of their issues and be more self-reliant. And maybe even with more communication we can allow them to reach out to family members that could be a part of their circle of care -- friends, sponsors -- and take the strain off of licensed mental healthcare providers," said Adams. "By giving them access to other resources and other people out there in their group in their time of need, a timely intervention can happen."
Adams started Cloud9 in 2013 after a career in real estate and a few entrepreneurial ventures post-college. He is not a doctor but has surrounded himself with an advisory team of experts with strong backgrounds in healthcare. Board members include MD's, PhD's and RN's as well as Norine Yukon, the former CEO of United Healthcare Texas.
Cloud9 is about to start working with a community health center in Central Texas that serves over 50,000 patients -- many low-income -- and has a large behavioral health center. Eventually, the company plans to make its app available to the public.