Chris Donovan, a healthcare transaction lawyer, is a partner at Foley and Lardner in Boston. He spoke with Laura Veroneau, a partner at Optum Ventures, on the investment opportunities within the behavioral health field, as well as the possible changes to the field in the coming years. The field of behavioral health has blossomed over the last five years, thanks partly to the pandemic. It shed light on a field that was generally underserved and overlooked as a part of meaningful healthcare solutions. Many new companies have developed business models, technologies, and innovations within the field that have placed behavioral health at the forefront of healthcare advancements. Companies and technology are only part of the puzzle to success within the field. Investors make up a huge component of the success and advancement in the future of the field.
Innovation in the behavioral space has increased greatly thanks to the heightened focus on the concerns of mental health. The new popularity and success of the field have brought to light some of the faults and the overall lack of access to behavioral health providers, medications, care, and research. With the thriving of the field, now more companies than ever are interested in making history with breakthrough innovations that help further the success of these patients and with the idea of an overall health-focused model versus separate mental and physical health models. With the many opportunities for growth in the field and many areas for investment options, there has never been a better time for the field to expand and receive the attention it so desperately requires. The industry was simply not meeting the same set of needs on the behavioral health side as it was hitting the physical health side. Thankfully, that has all changed.
In 2017, Optum Ventures saw an opening and an acceleration in behavioral health, mostly in part due to the recognition of the importance of behavioral health in conjunction with the overall ecosystem of healthcare. The advancements in the field have created an entirely new sector of behavioral health. There are now more specialties within the field itself as well, including the new focus on pediatric’s behavioral health, substance abuse, eating disorders, OCD, as well as others, that have immense opportunities for investments across the board. Since there is no one-size-fits-all for investments, there are many different options for investors to get involved and help shape the future of the field. In conjunction with the numerous investors, a necessary saturation of the field has developed. As one company finds success and starts to do well, then more competitors appear. This gives the investors more variety in their selections, as well as a chance to create partnerships that will have a vital impact on the advancements and capability of the companies to continue to evolve and provide continuous solutions.
The culmination of these different options and solutions suggests the opportunity for growth between different companies in the form of financial sponsors, bringing together broad solutions to create a comprehensive platform. There is so much potential for investments to flourish in the involvement of the investors and companies. This idea of investors and sponsorship in the behavioral health field can contribute to the consolidation of this field. Many strides are taking place to aid in viewing this specific field as a massive part of the healthcare system going forward.
Access continues to be a large struggle and to have a clear mismatch of need versus the ability to obtain care. Expanding access in all areas for people to receive behavioral health care is a critically important aspect of these investments. Since there is no one way to address the needs of these companies, it is crucial to be able to access the field as a whole, as well as evaluate the company's ability to thrive in the field.
Investors have many different aspects of these companies that they need to evaluate and analyze. Assessing the quality and outcomes of the services that the different companies can provide is a large part of the research that goes on behind the scenes for investors. The focus on quality and outcomes is one of the biggest challenges, not just for investments, but for the companies themselves in order to be successful, which in turn, directly impacts the investors.
A large factor in the success of these companies is the potential for acquisitions by higher-level tier insurance like Humana and United. There is a lot of focus on the behavioral space, as well as the lack of access and the increased need and support of the behavioral health field in general. Innovation within the field has opened a clear path for the success of behavioral health care in the future. The pandemic certainly created a push for the acceptance of this sector of care. With this newfound level of acceptance, there is more value that can be attributed to the level of service of the companies and the collaborative care model. Partnerships and bonds between investors and companies help to drive the sector of care to succeed.
With the increased attention to the field of behavioral health, the influx of innovations by a variety of groundbreaking companies, and the overall availability of investment in such a growing field, there has never been a better time to build a network of collaborative ideas that will help shape the future of a field for the better good. Investments help to make dreams a reality and allow innovation to drive the advancement of such an important field.