Hi everyone, Spiffy here, your one and only interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth. I’m thrilled to be talking to Morgan Hewett, co-founder and CEO of Options MD, who is working to connect cutting-edge treatments with the people who need them. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Well, I’m curious! Can you tell me what challenges you’re addressing through your work with Options MD?
Morgan: Options MD is a United Healthcare backed platform that helps people with severe illnesses access cutting-edge treatments. Our initial focus is on treatment-resistant depression, which affects 5.5 million Americans (30% of people with depression). People who have treatment-resistant depression all have one thing in common: they have a severe form of depression that does not respond to standard treatment protocols, such as talk therapy or first-line medications. These people typically have to try dozens of medications before finding one that works and many often die from suicide in the process. Options MD helps them to access cutting-edge treatments and specialists faster, saving years of pain and preventing suicide.
Spiffy: Oh wow, that’s a scary way to learn about these crucial issues. What motivated you to approach the treatment of depression in this particular way?
Morgan: We learned first-hand about this severe form of depression after a family member spent eight years battling it, and when over 10 medications failed to help, attempted suicide. While a next-generation medication eventually saved his life, the process of accessing this medication took eight years and cost our family hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. We built Options MD to connect the highest-risk patients to cutting-edge treatments in a matter of minutes, not years.
Spiffy: I’m curious, how is Options MD working to make the world more equitable?
Morgan: Options MD’s AI-driven treatment-matching software identifies the right plan for patients who don’t respond to conventional treatment protocols. The patients that we serve (who primarily have treatment-resistant depression) have already tried more than three treatments and medications for depression, none of which have worked. They are on their last resort and are often contemplating suicide before they hear about Options MD. Our software provides them with hope and guidance in finally finding a treatment that works.
Spiffy: This is phenomenal, Morgan! Can you can tell me about a recent initiative and the kind of impact it makes?
Morgan: Options MD is currently in a closed beta stage, with over 2,400 patients with Treatment-Resistant Depression signed up for our private patient community. Patients use Options MD to learn about better treatment options, get referrals to top psychiatric specialists, and receive emotional support from other patients who are going through similar challenges.
Spiffy: I have to know: can you share about a time when you faced failure and didn't give up? What did you learn from failure?
Morgan: Options MD was born out of the United Healthcare Accelerator (powered by Techstars). At the Accelerator, we learned that partnering with health insurers was going to be more challenging than originally expected. We realized that it could take up to three years to land major contracts with national insurers, but our startup would not be able to survive without revenue until then. Instead of giving up, we pivoted our business model and decided to launch direct-to-consumer. Pivoting our short-term strategy forced us to develop a much closer relationship with the patients we serve. It was tough to explain our pivot to investors and partners, but eventually, we were able to be convincing.
Spiffy: This sounds incredibly promising, Morgan, and I’m glad we are on the cusp of seeing it take off! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me about your work! It’s been an honor!
Morgan Hewett is a co-founder and the CEO of Options MD, a mental health platform that helps people with severe and treatment-resistant depression access cutting-edge treatments, faster. Morgan has spent her career working at the intersection of technology and healthcare as a healthcare marketer. (Nominated by One Young World)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co/blogs/spiffys-blog