Lessons from Lucia Huang, Osmind: improving mental health treatments with an innovative EHR
Lucia Huang, CEO and Co-Founder at Osmind, the operating system for neuropsychiatry.
Welcome back to the Pear Healthcare Playbook! Every week, we’ll be getting to know trailblazing healthcare leaders and dive into building a digital health business from 0 to 1.
This week, we’re super excited to have Lucia Huang, CEO and Co-Founder at Osmind, the operating system for neuropsychiatry. Founded in 2020, Osmind provides software and data for precision mental health to help the 22M Americans with treatment-resistant mental health conditions.
Prior to founding Osmind, Lucia was the Director of Operations and Finance at Verge Genomics, a next generation neuroscience drug discovery company.
In July 2021, Osmind raised a $15M Series A led by Future Ventures! We’re a proud early supporter at Pear VC as well.
Osmind’s Founding Story
Lucia’s path to co-founding Osmind:
Lucia studied chemistry in undergrad but wasn’t interested in the medical school path, so she went into finance with a focus on healthcare companies. She joined Warburg Pincus on the investing side, realized she was more interested in the operating side, and quit her job early at Warburg to join Verge Genomics, a 10-person startup at the time tackling neuroscience diseases like ALS. After working closely with Alice Zhang (CEO of Verge Genomics) to scale the company and raise funding, she was hooked on early stage startups and the potential for innovation in neuropsychiatry. After Verge, Lucia went to Stanford for her MBA. She was randomly paired with her now co-founder Jimmy in a healthcare class cross-listed between the business and med school— they’ve been friends and teammates ever since.
From there, Jimmy and Lucia enrolled in a psychedelic medicine class, talked to every single professor in the Stanford psychiatry department, providers in the Bay Area, etc. Both Lucia and Jimmy grew up in households where mental health was highly stigmatized, and both knew many friends with significant experiences with the mental health system. They wanted to start something that would ultimately lay the infrastructure layer for the entire mental health space, and now 2 years later they’ve built an institution, Osmind.
Osmind builds software for mental health providers and patients, creating a more modern + useful EHR operating system that accelerates development of new treatments and diagnostics.
Lucia compares the field of mental health to oncology a decade ago— new treatments have resulted in the death rate in oncology falling, which Lucia says is probably the only therapeutic area where that's happened.
“The corollaries are in mental health, we now have new types of treatments, we have things like psychedelic medicine, or neuromodulation… and then, of course, new ways of understanding data, gathering data, measuring things, we've got new ways of imaging the brain, capturing digital data, just so much innovation that's happening right now that our goal is to really, again, build that infrastructure layer that helps both providers and researchers.”
Lucia describes Osmind as a two-sided marketplace for treatment resistant patients
On one side, Osmind builds and sells an electronic health record (EHR) and software to providers, typically ones focused on treatment resistant patients. These are usually smaller mental health practices using innovative treatments or interventional psychiatry modalities, and Osmind’s software really serves them.
On the other side of the network, Osmind analyzes the data and facilitates relationships with providers and researchers. They sell into pharma, they sell insights, clinical trial services, etc. to help companies get new treatments across the finish line, deliver new treatments, and create a flywheel effect.
Many existing EHRs are from the 2000s, and the outdated technology hinders clinical care. During their research phase, the team found that providers were struggling with 2 main issues with their software:
Workflows are changing in mental health with both existing/newer treatments because providers want to integrate more data into their decision making, there are more compliance and regulatory burdens, etc. Lucia mentions a new treatment called Spravato manufactured by Janssen approved a couple of years ago, the first new type of antidepressant approved in almost 40 or 50 years. However, because it's an interventional treatment done in the office, the provider had to do about an extra hour of documentation per day and fax it off to the FDA. To solve that problem, Osmind integrates directly with the manufacturers to port over the right information directly from the EHR, simplifying that workflow and saving the provider a ton of time.
Measurement based care is changing the field. In the past, psychiatrists and mental health providers tried to measure outcomes with questionnaires or other unavoidably imprecise tools. A core part of Osmind’s platform is automating the sending, scoring, and collecting of patient reported outcomes so that providers can make better decisions. Providers will even get alerts if patients have noted some sort of change in their mood scores, and providers can then make better decisions based off of that.
“Our overall goal was to bring the software into the 22nd century to help them make better decisions for their patients.”
Building an EHR MVP from scratch with their first mental health clinic
Building EHRs as a wedge into the workflow:
Lucia believes building EHRs are an underrated wedge because they’re so workflow critical. Because providers use EHRs day in and day out, often for 10+ hours a day, you’re able to gain insight into critical data surrounding their workflow and also build valuable relationships with the provider. Lucia also thinks it's much easier to build an EHR today than it was 10 years ago, given new devops tools, improved technologies, and integrations.
Especially at the beginning, design thinking and need-finding around a representative sample is essential.
In the early months of building Osmind, Lucia shares that they talked to around 100 people, knocking on providers’ doors all around the Bay Area for their first iteration of need-finding. It wasn’t until later on that they realized that Bay Area providers aren’t representative of the rest of the country— they're generally more tech forward, there are nuances around what they can prescribe here versus in other states, etc. Lucia says this bias almost caused them to build the wrong feature, and so she cautions founders to pick a representative sample, understanding the workflow and the problem first before ideating a solution.
“It's so easy to think about a solution first and not the problem first, and it's just so critical to start from the problem and to talk to as many people as possible.”
Need-finding takes hustle.
In 2020, Jimmy and Lucia drove down to LA during the pandemic, and went door to door to different doctors selling their product. Be scrappy and get something in the hands of users ASAP.
Be open to change based on what you learn from the market.
Lucia shares that they were initially building a measurement-based care tool focused on tracking patient outcomes meant to support the EHR, but kept hearing— “wait, is this an EHR?” The more and more they heard their users say they wanted to switch off their existing EHR for something better, the team realized building an EHR was going to be better in the long run to be that sticky wedge. This was a real time decision made during Osmind’s first 5-10 sales.
Get into the specifics, crystallize the needfinding, and allow that ultimately guide your product roadmap.
Lucia cautions founders against being too broad or vague. She recommends trying to pattern match and find the similarities in pain points. For example, clinical trial recruitment and its lack of automation kept on coming up every time they talked to a pharma company. Lucia and Jimmy realized that, with an EHR, providers can query patients in a much more automated and efficient fashion.
Especially in the field of mental health, it’s important to have strong relationships with providers.
Lucia mentions that there are definitely some nuances around the mental health patient population when it comes to the trial funnel enrollment funnel, which is why having a relationship with the provider is essential to nudge the patient along. The process varies field to field — “the way you get the data and the way you build that provider network may be different depending on the therapeutic area because that's just a very different care delivery model.”
Scaling the customer base and hiring a world class team
It’s not just a product and sales motion, it’s a team motion built on trust.
Scaling your business has many moving parts: Lucia mentions changing your sales motion, learning to prioritize product feedback for a more general customer base, etc. More than that, however, Lucia believes it's really about building the team. Early startups are always founder led. Lucia was leading sales and Jimmy customer success for Osmind’s first 50 customers.
Lucia shares that hiring was a scary step, because founders have to put trust in other people even to eventually hire and build their own teams, but trust is essential to scaling your company.
“I think it's really easy for founders to stay in the weeds and feel like they want to maintain ownership over the process. But you really have to trust your team and trust the process, because that's really going to help them treat customers and really scale this in the way that you would have done if you were continuing to have your pulse on things.”
It’s all about the people— bring on experts in their field who are excited about the work.
Lucia believes Osmind really hit an inflection point when they were really focusing on building out their leadership team after their Series A, bringing on 6 leadership team members on since July.
Lucia suggests bringing on and hiring people who are experts in their functional area. As a founder scaling their team, Lucia advises that it is important to trust your team members who might know more than you to take your business to the next level.
“I just cannot emphasize enough the impact of having an amazing leadership team and how that has trickle down effects to the rest of the team.”
Don’t forget to embed the mission into the team and building process.
Lucia talks about being more intentional about making the mission show up in different ways and keeping the excitement alive:
Sharing stories from patients and providers: Osmind hosts regular patient and provider talks where they bring in customers or patients to talk about their most meaningful experiences using the platform.
Ideating in hackathons and research challenges: Within the company, Osmind’s clinical leadership runs fun research challenges like study design competitions.
“The exciting thing about working in healthcare is that we get to do mission driven work all day and that's been a huge plus for selling candidates.”
Exciting opportunities in healthcare
Valued based care: Lucia believes that with COVID, healthcare as a landscape has changed drastically. While there’s been a proliferation of healthcare businesses, of which some perpetuate the fee-for-service healthcare paradigm, Lucia wants to see the industry move to value-based care and sees high potential for companies to build the corresponding infrastructure layer.
High cost patient populations: The other area Lucia’s excited about are solutions serving high cost patient populations. She shares that in mental health, many mental health companies neglect higher acuity, more serious mental illness patients who often have to deal with fees 3X more expensive than the traditional mental health patient. There is a large population, many of whom are on Medicaid and Lucia is excited to see new products focusing on that high acuity, higher cost population. She believes there is a lot of potential to lower costs and provide better care.
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