Team Spotlight: Dr Alyssa Dietz
For our latest Team Spotlight interview, we spoke to Dr Alyssa Dietz, Head of US Clinical Strategy at ieso.
Alyssa told us about her role, the differences between the healthcare markets in the UK and US, and her thoughts on digital mental health as we approach 2024.
Hi Alyssa. Can you tell us about your career background and your role at ieso?
Sure, I am a licensed clinical psychologist and a former professor: I taught and trained future therapists, saw my own caseload, and directed a research lab focused on the intersection of technology and mental health. Over time, I became increasingly frustrated with the disconnect between the knowledge that there are psychological treatments that work for many people/many problems and yet, the vast majority of people who need care receive nothing, and if they do receive care, it is often inconsistent with evidence based best practices. So, a handful of years ago, I transitioned to working in the digital health industry.
It’s no secret that there is a crushing supply/demand imbalance for mental health clinicians, and we are never going to be able to train enough people to meet that demand. Moreover, there are tons of access problems, and many people are finding it difficult if not impossible to attend weekly therapy appointments. Digital tools are not a silver bullet, but I believe they are our best shot at closing the gap between need and care.
My first job in industry was at Pear Therapeutics, which was the first company to bring a Prescription Digital Therapeutic (PDT) to market. I later moved to what was then known as Happify, now called Twill. Throughout my career, I have held several roles across medical affairs, commercial, corporate strategy, and clinical strategy. I am the Head of US Clinical Strategy here at ieso, where I integrate my clinical and commercial knowledge to meet patient and market needs. I came to ieso for a few reasons: ieso prioritizes scientific and clinical rigor (and continue to do so even in an environment where many companies are deprioritizing these), have extensive experience innovating and operating within a value-based framework, and we are at the cutting edge of technology- using clinical grade AI to deliver truly personalized, high-quality care in an accessible way.
ieso operates in both the UK and the US – how have you found the differences between the markets so far?
It's been a learning experience, that's for sure. In many ways, the UK system is simpler. There is a national health service; patients generally know where to go for care that they need; there’s a stepped care system in place; there's a standardisation of accepted empirically supported treatments; value-based care delivery is a requirement for vendors. The US is just so different from that: It's much messier, more complex, and while everybody likes the idea of value-based care, few have implemented it successfully. So, working for a UK headquartered company who has tons of experience provisioning high quality, scientifically and clinically rigorous care and delivering it in a value-based framework is great expertise to bring to the US.
And finally, where do you see digital mental healthcare heading in 2024, in both the US and UK?
The market is reeling from collapses and pivots of once market-leading companies. Many have had to return to the drawing board to figure out how to deliver clinically and scientifically sound care in a way that is engaging for the user, accepted by the market, and even more importantly, paid for by the market.
Given challenges of fundraising and relatively slow adoption of payment for digital treatments, we've already started to see significant consolidation and I think that is going to accelerate. We've also seen a move from point solutions to platform solutions, but I think many are still trying to figure out exactly how they work optimally. For example, we've seen the emergence of some blended care models, but early attempts have been more like parallel care models: a person may receive digital support tools and they may receive some type of human-delivered care, but at present they are rarely integrated in a meaningful way.
Finally, we're going to see an increase in the use of AI. The status quo of mental healthcare is insufficient: people are suffering at unprecedented levels. More of what we are doing is not only not logistically possible but it’s not going to be sufficient. Advanced computational models allow us to interrogate data to understand what works for whom under what circumstances, which can personalize and tailor care at a scale not previously achieved. Generative AI has obviously made a big splash but consumers, especially in healthcare, are cautious and skeptical - and for good reason! We at ieso have been proactive in designing a Responsible Innovation framework to guide our work in this area: I believe leveraging technology, while keeping quality, safety, and security at the centre, is integral to making peoples’ mental health better.
For UK Time to Talk Day, the ieso clinical offer their advice on how to start a conversation about mental health