Headspace Health calls for third-party researchers to study company's impact on mental health – MedCity News

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Health Tech
By Marissa Plescia

Digital mental health companies have received tremendous amounts of investment from venture capitalists and others eager to address the behavioral health crisis the nation finds itself in.
But it’s not always clear that their technologies have been properly validated in large and diverse populations.
Now, Headspace Health, a mental health solution provider based in Santa Monica, California, is requesting third-party researchers to analyze how the company affects mental health and wellness outcomes, particularly for diverse populations. It is asking for peer-reviewed research proposals from academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, healthcare institutions and other researchers. The company is reviewing proposals on a quarterly basis, with rejections or approvals sent out on the first week of each quarter, according to the link for submissions.  
“We need more studies conducted by independent, third-party researchers on the mechanisms, generalizability and gaps in current solutions,” Lauren Lee, vice president of clinical product and content development, wrote in an email. “By studying the specific underlying mechanisms that explain how Headspace impacts positive members outcomes, we can demonstrate what aspect of our Headspace member experience is most powerful for our members, continually refining and iterating on our product experience.”
In 2021, the company merged with digital mental health startup Ginger through a $3 billion deal. The combined entity provides meditation tools, therapy, coaching and psychiatry to users and sells its platform to employers and health plans. Its customers include Starbucks, Delta Air Lines and Cigna. Kaiser Permanente also recently announced it is starting to provide Headspace Health’s behavioral health coaching benefits to its members.
An area in particular Headspace Health is looking for researchers to study is the impact of its solutions on underserved populations, Lee said. Improving health equity has been a key focus for the startup. It recently acquired Shine, an app that works to bring mental health support to marginalized communities.   
“One major gap that we have identified in the literature is the impact of Headspace on diverse populations,” Lee said. “We hope to see more research that evaluates the impact of digital meditation and mindfulness among those in underserved or traditionally marginalized communities, clinical populations, and young adults.” 
Headspace Health already has 40 published studies from peer-reviewed journals, one of which found that it reduced anxiety symptoms by 19% and depression symptoms by 29% after eight weeks of use. But the startup hopes to further grow its research so it can find holes in its services, Lee said.
An expanded body of research on outcomes associated with digital mental health and wellbeing tools will enable us and other digital health companies to identify gaps and strategies to improve the design of our solutions,” she said.
Not only is Headspace Health asking for researchers to study its own company, but it wants other digital health startups to do the same, Lee said. Research can help determine what is working and what needs improvement in companies’ offerings.
“We hope to encourage others in the digital mental health space, and those in the digital health industry more broadly, to critically evaluate how an investment in research can accelerate the completion of more studies to better understand how digital solutions are moving the needle in users’ behavioral health and outcomes,” Lee said.
Photo: SIphotography, Getty Images
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