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Fisher Wallace offers wearable medical devices for the treatment of depression, anxiety and insomnia
Steven Loeb speaks with Kelly Roman, co-founder and CEO of Fisher Wallace, a company that offers wearable medical devices for the treatment of depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Our goal is to understand how technology is radically changing healthcare: the way we screen, treat and measure progress and outcomes. Whether tech is helping or hurting our well-being physically and mentally. And whether we’re creating productivity that drives economic costs down while improving are overall health.
Highlights from the interview:
- Roman first partnered with co-founder Chip Fisher in 2009, when wearable tech was just becoming something that people were adopting and there was not a lot of hardware for treating mental health symptoms. It was, and still is, very much a culture of medication and talk therapy, as it still largely is today. The hard part was going to be proving the technology out scientifically, research, and convincing people to put electrodes on their head.
- Drug therapy works for many people but the efficacy of it, especially in terms of remission rates, is less than half, and an inefficient delivery system: you have to swallow the pill, it has to be digested, the impacts of that drug are felt in your gastric system. Brain stimulation makes sense because it improves brain function directly with electricity instead of having to go through the digestive system. That was the fundamental advantage he saw in wearable devices.
- Fisher Wallace has many customers who report reversals in suicide, meaning they have attempted suicide before using the device and and have not afterwards, so it's appropriate for severe depression patients. The device is a tool for the whole spectrum of mental health, whether they're feeling stress and may not have severe symptoms, or if they are severe.
- When someone uses the device there's an increase in neurotransmitter production and a change in the brainwave state. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is the front part of the brain, will see an increase in activity. Typically, that region of the brain is underactive in depressed patients.
- Fisher Wallace is building a new device that is going to have the same therapy, but a much different form factor, called Oak, which will be coming out next year. It won't have any wires, it'll be completely head based, it will be Bluetooth, it'll have a speaker for voice assistance during usage. The app will be tracking symptoms, as well as cognitive performance. It will also build talk therapy into it, embracing the idea that multiple treatment tools can be better than one. Fisher Wallace has a lot of patients who only need our device, but there's also a lot who will also benefit from talk therapy and if they've already acquired those customers through the hardware, Roman believes it should be able to offer more affordable talk therapy as well.
- Last month was the company’s best sales month in history, with over $850,000, meaning a $10 million run rate. The impact of the pandemic on mental health, the population that was the most affected were adolescents and what we're seeing now is the after effects of that with kids who went for a long time in isolation. The company is marketing toward adults and is currently doing research on adolescents. While the company has seen an uptick in sales, the drug makers are seeing the biggest uptick in sales because there's still the standard of care and it's what people know, it's what doctors know, but there is no problem with shrinking demand.
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