Industry Spotlight: Dr. Katz, Inc.
The CIDH Industry Spotlight is a Q&A designed to showcase industry trends and innovations. In this series, industry leaders will share their journeys, perspectives, and key learnings.
Dr. Katz, Inc. is an intelligent, secure, and accessible solution that is informed by patient and provider needs. They are designing a system that helps scale mental health practices, improve quality of care, and measure outcomes.
What inspired you to start Dr. Katz?
My mom, Dr. Betsy Katz, is the original inspiration for the company. She is a practicing clinical psychologist of more than forty years and splits her time between the Washington, D.C. suburbs, where I was raised, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
When I was growing up, I’d often hear the home doorbell ring and the pleasantries exchanged as she greeted her patients. She spent time early in her career treating people struggling with substance use disorders at Fairfield Hills Hospital in Connecticut and working as a research assistant at the Yale Child Study Center. In the ‘70s, she was part of one of the first PhD classes to graduate from the California School of Professional Psychology – now known as Alliant, it is one of the largest education organizations dedicated to training mental health professionals in California.
Among other things, I learned from her that it’s important to use your time to help people move forward in their lives and that with the right support, people can change.
Tell us about Dr. Katz. What is your mission?
Providers and patients are in a crisis. At least one in five adults needs mental health care every year. Providers do not have the time, tools, or systems to meet the need. Our mission at Dr. Katz is to increase access to high-quality, affordable mental healthcare. To make that happen, we’re creating solutions that help providers deliver better and more informed care– and do so efficiently and at a lower cost.
Our diverse and mission-driven team understands the needs of both patients and providers and the complexities at the intersection of enterprise technology and healthcare. Our team comes from places like Netflix, Workday, Intuit, and leading design studios and educational organizations.
Dr. Katz is introducing its solutions in partnership with the Department of Psychiatry of the Massachusetts General Hospital because of Mass General Brigham’s scale, scope, and ingenuity, as well as with other healthcare systems. But no single health system can address this national problem on its own. Change must come for everyone, patients and providers alike.
How does Dr. Katz simplify administrative work for providers?
We have found that providers are dealing with “information chaos.” Digital care has been transformative but has also created a lot of noise. Dr. Katz helps increase the signal, make frequent tasks less burdensome, and shrink the less important or unnecessary information so that the insights within data are accessible and actionable. Well-designed software does this.
More providers are using Dr. Katz every day. As we onboard new psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and coordinators, we ask, how would you describe Dr. Katz to a colleague? Recently, a clinical fellow summarized Dr. Katz as an app that “supports patient assessment and education.” A psychiatrist told us that the app is an antidote to his “broken record” feeling where he finds himself giving a very similar talk to patients and parents diagnosed with autism. Another doctor told us: “I want to give patients reputable resources. There is so much out there on the web. But I want things that are reliable for patients and families.”
Today, Dr. Katz helps providers accomplish three key tasks. First, we help providers support patients between visits through video-based patient education. With the simple, easy-to-understand video “Shorts,” we are helping providers quickly and effectively fill in those knowledge gaps before, after, and in-between visits.
Second, we give providers software that lets them monitor symptoms in real-time so they can intervene with patients at key moments in their care journey. Our evidence-based rating scales add clarity, transparency, and improved quality control to treatments for anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder.
Third, our software makes it easier for providers to keep abreast of current research and cutting-edge theories in diagnosis and treatment. With Dr. Katz, providers can say goodbye to out-of-date spreadsheets, filing cabinets overflowing with CME certificates, and sticky note calendar reminders to send in their transcripts.
How is Dr. Katz improving care for patients?
Over the last three years, patients have largely switched from in-person to virtual visits. Most patients have shared that they love the flexibility of virtual visits but want even more digital support options. Patients have shared three common pain points with us: they need their providers to give them reliable, easy-to-understand information; they need help staying on track in their treatment; and they need an always-available record of their progress.
Patient users tell us it’s useful to access educational videos from experts between visits, as information makes care “more approachable” and feel “less judgmental.” With access to a library of “Shorts,” which we call our concise videos that address different questions patients might have, patients have confidence and support when needed. At Dr. Katz, we’ve made video core to our platform, as video is far and away the medium of choice for millennials and a great way to connect with all generations.
Staying on track in treatment
We make it especially easy for patients to keep track of homework their provider wants them to do between visits. It’s simple: Patients open the app on their phone or desktop browser and go to their Assignments. This is important because a common feature of cognitive behavioral therapy is timely completion of homework. By watching short videos or responding to rating scales, patients can reinforce skills and provide feedback to providers on how they are progressing.
Access to record of progress
Finding the right care isn’t easy for people. Many patients see more than one provider when obtaining a diagnosis and a course of treatment. This makes it hard for patients and providers to keep track of all the steps on the journey. The patient record is critical to referrals and consultations with a new provider, so we give people a nicely organized log of their past and upcoming appointments, as well as a means of visualizing their responses to rating scales over time, which helps alleviate basic challenges and brings transparency to the forefront.
Tell us about Dr. Katz for Enterprise Healthcare.
Some like the idea of “one size fits all” for software solutions. But that approach does not apply to digital health. Mental health providers and their patients understand their needs are different from the needs of, say, a podiatrist and her patient with plantar fasciitis.
With more connected, unifying platform technology that wraps around the electronic health record and enterprise resource planning apps, we can let healthcare stakeholders get the most out of technology. Software can be designed for specific users and specific problems, while at the same time provide foundational systems of record that can be efficiently used by small or large healthcare systems.
What is critical to all software solutions, whether for health care or entertainment, or business, is interoperability. We use our Shopify or Google Pay accounts to seamlessly check out on retail websites. We want the choice of products and services. But we also want our choices to connect quickly and easily to create a seamless overall experience.
This seamless interconnection of health care providers, insurance systems, scheduling, and myriad other facets of an overall successful journey of treatment is what software can give patients and providers alike. This is our goal.
Patients suffering from eating disorders deserve an app that tracks their medications and a connected digital therapeutic regime that helps provide them with cognitive behavioral therapy tips which they can practice on their own time. Providers deserve an app for building their skills as professionals that relate specifically to their own practice.
What brought you to Mass General?
I’ve been partnering closely with Maurizio Fava, the Chair of Psychiatry at Mass General Hospital, to identify areas where we can create the most value for his hospital, a world leader in mental healthcare with operations in multiple sites and states. We believe our collaborative approach can be a model for other academic, research-affiliated, integrated health systems.
Second, I believe that when practitioners and technologists get together, the best solutions emerge. In healthcare, that means organizing patients, clinicians, administrators, IT professionals, and business managers and listening first. When you start with a clean sheet of paper, everyone’s perspective leaves an imprint. The result is a comprehensive and novel set of solutions to enterprise challenges.
What lessons have you learned from the collaboration process with Mass General?
We began collaborating with Mass General not long before the pandemic broke out. Everyone knew information had to be digitized and shared through modern workplace software methods to expand and improve mental healthcare, but it was not clear how this future could be accelerated.
When the pandemic hit, Dr. Fava quickly realized that the crisis was an inflection point for mental health. The old ways of delivering care could neither meet the demand nor even comply with shutdowns and limitations of in-person contact. Organizations that learned how to manage their practice in this new world could improve their capabilities by orders of magnitude. Those who did not cope would be left behind.
At MGH, under Dr. Fava’s leadership, the Psychiatry Department transformed from delivering 5% of its care virtually to 95%. The shift took place out of necessity; video conferencing technology had been there, but it took a forcing function to drive mass adoption – the importance of timing was our first lesson.
Our second lesson was that we could learn a lot from a small set of engaged lead users. Our job was to write the code for this new world of treatment. Some might think engineers work in cloistered, isolated privacy, only to emerge with the output of their own private thinking. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Good code comes from good communication with the people who are helped by the software.
We got feedback early and often. We had working, alpha software at the fingertips of the first user within six months of hiring our lead engineer, Brent Parker.
Lead users gave us feedback and ideas big and small. For example, the first version of Dr. Katz had learning experiences, including videos and courses, for providers. But it was MGH clinicians who urged us: Why don’t you include learning we can share with patients, too? That would be great if it was all in one system. We have implemented 20 Brainstorm Ideas that have come directly from MGH users in the past year.
The third lesson has been: embrace and enhance the clinical workflow. Every entrepreneur working in digital health gets asked how they will get clinicians to change their habits. We learned from collaboration with CIDH tried and true ways to lower barriers to adoption. Our job was to translate these ways into software solutions. We incorporated single sign-on for onboarding new enterprise users, so everyone would have one less username and password to remember. We achieved HIPAA compliance for privacy and security, and electronic health record integration, so providers would know which patients with upcoming appointments they might want to distribute a rating scale or video to.
We invested in multi-platform functionality. That means users can access Dr. Katz using a mobile app or via browser as opposed to being confined to a desktop at MGH for access. And we made it simple for providers to organize their favorite tools, distribute them to patients in one tap, and view feedback from patients afterward.
We will never stop listening for more ways to unify workflows across disparate systems. Adoption comes from adaptation to needs, not from telling people what to do.