Q&A: How Headspace Health acquisitions are changing its mental health product


Headspace Health revealed two acquisitions this year, the latest coming earlier this month when digital mental health company announced the purchase of mental wellness app Shine.

In a crowded field mental health startups, the company uses acquisitions to grow its product and add new capabilities. Leslie Witt, Headspace’s director of product and design, said the Shine deal was part of a larger effort to deliver content that meets the needs of more groups, including people. of color, women and the LGBTQIA+ community.

Headspace Health too picked up Sayana, maker of AI-enabled mental health and sleep tracking apps. And Headspace itself is the result of a merger between meditation app Headspace and virtual mental health care company Ginger, which shut down nearly a year ago.

Witt sat down with MobiHealthNews to discuss the company’s acquisition strategy, how its offering might change in the future, and what’s next for the competitive digital mental health industry.

MobiHealthNews: So it wasn’t Headspace’s first acquisition this year. How do you choose your acquisition targets? Do you plan to continue at a similar pace?

Leslie Wit: I think, as you’re no doubt seeing, the consolidation of the mental health and behavioral health fields, which has been talked about for a long time, is starting to happen. In some ways, the biggest part of our story that overlaps with this is the merging of Ginger and Headspace proper.

But we see a lot of opportunity through three lenses. Most of the acquisitions we’ve made, both as a combined entity and some of those we’ve made separately, fit the purpose of some content that aligns with our core mission. and helps increase our reach from a self-service mental health perspective, capabilities that bring new levels of technology – especially around AI, conversation and community – and then talent.

All of this happened in small consolidations, where we’re not looking to maintain their offering as a stand-alone offering, but rather incorporating the talent they bring to the table into our core areas of focus, accelerate our capacity building, then increase our content libraries.

MNH: You’ve been with Headspace for about two years, shortly before the merger with Ginger. How has the experience changed from a product perspective?

Spirit : I’m going to share with you a bit about why I joined Headspace, which was basically to respond to what we heard from our potential members – often members who came and then didn’t find what they needed. that is, more acute mental health benefits and care. And from our corporate buyers, they were seeing this beloved brand, a well-known brand that was attracting 30%, 50% of their employee base to sign up and open a doorway to care.

But that front door only led so far. I fundamentally believe in the power of mindfulness and meditation tools, but they cannot meet all mental health needs. And especially when someone is in a state of acute anxiety, acute depression, they need access to professional human services.

For Headspace, this led to a direct realization that we had no viable, fast path without merging, and Ginger was the perfect partner to partner with. We have been working across this service landscape over the past year to ensure that we can truly open the door to care for all. That we can learn who you are, what you need, assess your goals, triage you in a personalized way to the right kind of care transfer, to the right start. And put you on a path where we really establish the dimensions of a lifelong mental health journey, helping you develop habits of practice that give you a deeper capacity for self-care that can then intensify when the need arises.

MNH: What are some of your goals for changing your offering in the future?

Spirit : One is personalization – not just of services, but of measurement and results – so that we can continually be in a learning and improvement loop where we understand what you need from the start, serve the good thing, let’s assess whether or not it actually worked for you, and do it both individually and as a whole.

We’re building what I often call the middle piece, the bridge that exists between the self-service content of the Headspace app and the text-based coaching, teletherapy and telepsychiatry of the Ginger service.

To really focus on more clinical content and programmatic content, we launched a stress program. This is a 30 day program that really takes you in a way backed by clinical and behavioral science, from an introduction to stress reduction to a habit and practice of stress reduction. We’re doing the same for anxiety and sleep, and we see a lot of potential to start hybridizing the interaction between coaching and that level of human support into the core product itself.

And then, last but not least, I think we have a lot of opportunities around the community. We see people engaging almost in a cohort-based fashion around certain content areas. [For example,] we see people coming to Headspace in times of struggling with infertility and see a lot of potential and desire to start linking community and peer support.

MNH: There are many digital mental health companies out there right now, and you mentioned earlier that we may be at the start of a wave of combinations. How do you think the space as a whole will change this year?

Spirit : Some of the ways I see the game changing is that we’re going back, in very good ways, to some of our pre-COVID norms. And with that, I think there’s a lot of pressure on [figuring out] what is the persistence, the relevance of telehealth.

What we typically find is that, of all the telehealth services, the ones that stick the most in a digital format are actually behavioral health.

We’re starting to look at some of this teenage mental health crisis. I think it’s outsourced right now. And as a mom of 11-year-old twins who sees what’s happening in this landscape, there needs to be more participants in this space. And we must celebrate those who have already been there and ensure that their capacity and access continue to be expanded for all.

We also see where companies have played an outsized role in promoting employee access to mental health services. More and more needs and support are coming from the public sector. We have a relationship with LA County, and we see a lot of potential to partner with governments, educational institutions, and broader health systems to ensure health parity and equity goals are met. .


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