In conversation: Clare Hurley and Dr Jodi Prohofsky
In late 2022, ieso appointed two new Chief Operating Officers with extensive clinical experience to oversee the next phase of ieso’s growth - Clare Hurley, as COO for the UK, and Dr Jodi Prohofsky as COO for the US.
Before joining ieso, Clare held a number of senior clinical leadership roles in the UK public healthcare sector. She is a fully qualified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and social worker and has a Masters degree in Social Research Methods from The London School of Economics and Political Science.
Jodi began her career with Cigna as a line clinician before working her way up to SVP of Clinical Operations. She then held further senior leadership roles in the US healthcare industry, notably at Bloom Health, Magellan Health, and Walmart, before joining ieso. Jodi is a qualified therapist, and holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s in Family Psychology, a PhD in Systemic Family Therapy, and an executive certificate in Business Administration.
Jodi and Clare sat down together to discuss their backgrounds, their roles, and their markets.
Jodi Prohofsky: Hi Clare, so we both joined ieso within the last year, but I believe your relationship with ieso goes back longer than that?
Clare Hurley: Yes, I originally joined ieso as an affiliate clinician while on maternity leave to maintain my accreditation. I was pleasantly surprised at what it was like to practice CBT digitally when I'd been a predominantly face-to-face therapist before, I liked the outcomes for patients and this way of working as a therapist.
After maternity leave, I returned as Head of Psychology at Dorset HealthCare, which is one of the NHS Foundation Trusts here in the UK. I'd been so impressed by ieso that I brought them into Dorset as a treatment option for our patients. Over time, I got to know the other parts of ieso, like the science team who would periodically come visit and walk us through their latest amazing study. It was really interesting, and they did some health economics work for us, digging into our data to understand efficacy and links to patients and costs in different parts of the system.
As a clinician, and someone senior running NHS mental health services, I really liked the emphasis ieso put on making digital therapy as good as it can be, and understanding why it worked or why it didn't work, and their mission to improve outcomes which really correlated with my values.
JP: Yes, I completely get that! Because as you know, I'm also a clinician by background having worked in and around the US managed care ecosystem for three decades, really seeing how it works and trying to impart change. Something that really broke my heart was the stigma around mental health care and that people weren't even trying to access it, which was compounded here in the US by the tremendous barriers around access, affordability and quality. One of the things that struck me about ieso was how they understood that the UK and the US healthcare markets have more similarities than differences – the main one being the shortage of therapists.
So, the fact that we're trying to solve this globally is what was attractive to me and whether in the UK or the US, we're really looking to leverage all of our knowledge, clinical experience, data science, and research, to put together solutions that can fit not only in just those markets but hopefully all markets in the future.
CH: I agree. I think there are similarities in those barriers - there's such common ground. In the UK we come across workforce shortages, stigma, the significant increase in demand - managing a global pandemic has been a huge burden and stress on people's mental health and their families and communities. Yes, the similarities are key. Do you see many differences between the markets and what they might need? And how we go about solving some of these challenges?
JP: I don't think there are too many differences. I think it's more about understanding the market to meet it where it is and help take it where it needs to be. It's no different from individual behaviour change. Although the theories and the strategies behind the practice are the same, the practical application - the systems and the payment mechanisms - are different. Because ieso understands that it's really about product market fit, we can make sure we’re introducing the right solution in the right way. It's not necessary for us to create completely different solutions for different areas.
CH: Well, I think we're finding that with the new digital products that we're building Jodi. We've got ideas that are consistent in what the product is – and there’ll be some variations in it for the different markets or different populations of people who might need to use it. But in essence, it's a coherent program with the goal of helping people by using simple CBT-based ideas and psychological interventions.
And as you say, although the landscape is different regarding the systems and mechanisms, the solutions are quite similar.
JP: Yes, I think this is where ieso is unique. It’s clear we're not a tech company. We're a clinical mental health company that has developed a technology. This is different from what we typically see in the marketplace, a tech company trying to tackle a mental health problem. I’ve been talking with the market a lot recently, and I’ve noticed it’s recognised that clinicians like you and I - and women too, who are underrepresented at tech companies - can uniquely problem-solve in a way where we really hear what customers and patients, need. One health plan was particularly impressed that we understood how our product needs to fit their workflow. We understand because we're coming from their world which adds a tremendous amount of credibility to our story.
Have you also had this experience in the UK?
CH: Yes, similar. The NHS is a big customer for us in the UK. I’ve recently presented at a couple of national NHS Talking Therapies focussed conferences, and I’ve worked within and led NHS Talking Therapies services (previously called NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)). So I like to think I've a good sense of their pain points, what does and doesn't work for them, and what they need. So the products and services we offer come from that place of shared understanding, not only very clinically informed but also informed by the market.
I think it's telling that you and I have been appointed as Chief Operating Officers with clinical backgrounds. It shows this is a business led by people who understand the mental health space and the sphere of psychology. And that means a lot to me in terms of value, not just in personal terms!
JP: And I’m so grateful for the work the business has done in the UK over the last decade, as it’s not only provided such great service to our patients but also provided us with a tremendously rich dataset. Being able to show we’ve treated over one hundred thousand patients through hundreds of thousands of hours of therapy leads people to immediately recognise that we build our products from a place of expert knowledge and understanding, that will be truly useful to the end user.
CH: Yes, I’ve talked about this in presentations recently and there’s always interest - our therapy dataset is the largest of outcomes-linked language data in the world. Therapists, as you and I both know, have delivered hundreds if not thousands of hours of therapy, but likely don’t know what we did in those sessions that worked or didn't work exactly. You have some idea, but it’s far from perfect. So, to be able to dig into that dataset to understand what happens in sessions where people get better – it helps figure out how to build that ‘magic’ into our products. That's the real differentiator for me, and one of the reasons I came to ieso.
JP: You know, it's funny. Even though I know we often get labelled a technology company, that never crossed my mind when I was exploring working with ieso. I always saw it as a clinical service company.
One thing I always say is, even though I am a therapist, I am not a good customer of therapy. However, the more I test early iterations of our newest product, the more I find myself engaged with it and wanting to use it and give it to my family and friends to use too.
You used the word ‘magic’ earlier. When we break it down, we know it's based on our data, our science, our clinical focus somehow coming together to create a very engaging patient journey, that’s not overly defined for them.
So, although it seems like it, it’s not ‘magic’ really – it’s down to hard work - I really have to give kudos to the clinical team, the design team, the product team, the AI team, everyone - it’s been a huge effort by the whole team.
CH: It’s been a huge collaboration. And I see this as a really exciting next phase for the company ready to test our latest product this year in both the US and UK. It’s going to be exciting to see the early signals of what kind of impact it has in the real world.
Both Jodi and Clare will be presenting at events in the coming weeks.
On February 22, Jodi will be on the first keynote panel at DTx West 2023 in San Mateo, California.
On March 15th, Clare will be presenting at Digital Health REWIRED 2023, in London.
If you will be attending either conference and would like to meet Jodi or Clare, get in touch via email@example.com.
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