All hail Thrive, the mental health app that has saved lives during Covid

Apps in their truest form are meant to engage, simplify an issue, engage the people using them, be easy to use and secure. All hail the health apps that have literally tick all these core boxes and more. Covid-19 has been the year where they have shone a beacon of safety and changed the way that people interact with medical professionals forever.

Launched years ago and accepted by a fair few, the majority of people seemed almost to distrust them, the change from the traditional methods of calling for an appointment and face to face conversations with a GP always seemed to be far trusted. Until the threat of meeting someone and contracting and/or spreading Covid-19 became prevalent. Lockdown saw many people reaching for their phones and searching for other options for healthcare.

From the business side of things, apps offering assistance suddenly became called upon to be present 24/7. Massive expansion ensued over the following hours and weeks and sourcing staff to cover the demand was a major challenge as growth scaled on an almost incontrollable measure.

However, it wasn’t just covid that caused issues of health. With people in lockdown the reality of isolation set in and the rise of mental health issues across the board rose sharply.

As CEOs and mid managers of companies across the world had to adjust to managing their staff working remotely, the struggle to keep workforces on track became a high priority issue to tackle.

Identifying with issues of mental health care and the challenges it posed even in pre-covid times was Founder and CEO of Thrive app, Andres Fonseca. He speaks to StartupGiants and shares his inspirational journey to creating what is now a globally respected app for mental health care. It’s used by individuals and corporates and has helped many businesses take care of their staff during the covid crisis. Soak up his words and may they spur you on with your own app design …

What sparked your need to create change?

After finishing my training, I discovered I had a passion for service design. I love seeing patients, but I can’t help but try to improve access to services and to redesign the process so that it’s easier for people. As a newly qualified consultant I tried to redesign my service so that we could see elderly patients closer to where they lived in their local GP surgery, rather than at the hospital. I tried for one year to deal with the NHS bureaucracy to no avail. I also tried to set up a service for young people presenting with memory problems. I again was defeated by ‘that is not the way we do things’ mentality.

Why mental health specifically?

Apps really lend themselves to the specific needs of mental health in some ways far easier than other issues. There is one case that always remains in my mind when I think back to the concept of Thrive being borne. I trained in the NHS as a consultant psychiatrist and I remember sitting in my clinic waiting for patients to come in to see me and picking up a thin folder for the last slot in the clinic. I was intrigued as a thin folder usually indicates a new patient, but this was not a new patient slot. I saw three letters of referral from the GP followed by three letters to the patient inviting her to come to the clinic and two letters discharging her for not attending her appointment. Each GP letter was more desperate, making the point that this lady had quite severe agoraphobia and required a home visit. Had I stayed in my comfortable office she would have received yet another discharge letter. Even after I saw her, she was not going to get any joy. The best treatment for her was CBT but she would require home visits and some support from someone to work with her on progressively leaving her house. I spoke to the psychology department and I was told that the waiting list was 18 months, and not to bother referring as they did not do any home visits at all.

Enter Thrive …

Yes, Thrive came from a desire to provide a means for people to be in control of their mental healthcare. Something that helped people with prevention, was capable of screening for mental health conditions and enabled direct access to psychological therapies at the touch of a button without any barriers. We also wanted to make it so that the user would never have to pay for it, so a challenge was to design the right business model to enable that all the way from prevention to intervention. We also wanted to have clinical need dictate the number of sessions offered, rather than a strict ‘you only get six sessions’ type of arrangement. Thrive is an attempt to solve that problem, enable individuals to have immediate access to the right level of intervention for their mental health regardless of their situation.

Have you seen a massive rise in customers during the lockdown?

COVID-19 has been a difficult time for many of us and with that comes a range of different struggles people have been experiencing. Over the past few months, we have seen an increase in downloads not only from those that are finding it hard, but from people that are considered well and are just looking to support their mental wellbeing and prevent mental health conditions occurring.

Our entire team has worked so hard to ensure that we’re supporting as many people as we possibly can whilst adapting to the current climate. Supporting over 3 million employees globally through our amazing partners and providing the app through the NHS, we have seen an increase in the number of people through spikes in lockdown, then viewing the recovery statistics post lockdown 1 reminds each of us at Thrive why we do what we have been doing. We were ready for lockdown 2 to do the same.

Have employers been quick to realise the benefits of Thrive within their firms?

Every partner that we work with has invested in Thrive because they see the benefit of a seamless and accessible mental health tool for their workforce. With download numbers, recoveries and engagement increasing month on month, we know our partners are seeing the benefits of Thrive within their organisations. It has been great to see how proactive everyone has been in response to the ever-changing situation. At Thrive we work closely with all of our partners to ensure a mental health focus translates back into the workplace, wherever that workplace may be …