Health IT

Quartet Health CEO: The case for intertwining primary care and behavioral health

“Mental health is all about primary care,” Quartet founder and CEO Arun Gupta said in a phone interview. “The industry has been chasing mental health as a separate part of the medical system.”

Arun Gupta founded Quartet Health in 2014. Via its technology, the New York City company brings physicians and mental health providers together to improve patients’ overall well-being.

The organization has collaborated with entities like Humana and Sutter Health, and earlier this year it announced a $40 million Series C round led by Polaris Partners and F-Prime Capital Partners.

“Healthcare is so deeply personal,” Gupta, who serves as CEO, said in a phone interview. Yet mental health patients “tend to be treated very much in a silo.”

During the call, Gupta elaborated on why integrating primary care and behavioral health is key to success, as well as how emerging technologies can shape the future of healthcare.

This exchange has been lightly edited.

MedCity: What prompted you to found Quartet?

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Gupta: The company was born of a mission … around the mental health space at large being so painful for all parties involved, mainly the patient. My experience as a person with people around me suffering with mental health issues was very painful. It turns out that’s an experience a lot of people have had. It’s become a mission that the whole company has been built around, which is the way we are treating mental health conditions is not up to par with what we scientifically know to be possible.

Mental health is all about primary care. The primary care doctors are woefully undersupported and they need a lot of resources.

There’s an enormous business case inherent in investing in the right mental health. The industry has been chasing mental health as a separate part of the medical system.

MedCity: Why are VCs currently so interested in companies in the mental health tech space?

Gupta: When we were starting, they weren’t that interested in mental health, to be honest.

What I certainly experienced is there’s something broader going on: We’re hitting the point where the industry is fed up with rounding corners. We need to improve cost and quality. Our doctors are burning out. We need to shift risk away and get away from fee-for-service. I think the industry at large is starting to embrace the core function of, how do we make this healthcare system function in a more sound way?

Within that context, mental health has completely come to the surface. It has become such a huge problem for patients. It becomes kind of a much more in-focus topic and I think the VCs are always looking to the future.

MedCity: What benefits does being headquartered in New York City bring Quartet?

Gupta: For us, it’s really all about talent. We implement all across the country in lots of different markets. We’re not locked into implementing in New York from a customer point of view.

New York has particularly emerged as an amazing place to build companies. It’s a bit of a real economy kind of city. When I look around at the best founders in this city and I hear the problems they’re working on, they’re much more real economy problems versus consumer problems. We’re able to create a culture here that is really about the best of the best that the tech industry has, coupled with a very strong social purpose at the heart of the company that motivates people to come here in the first place.

MedCity: How can new technologies like telebehavioral health and therapy apps help patients and providers address mental health?

Gupta: I’m very optimistic that technology is going to play a really positive role in improving healthcare in this country. I feel we’ve devalued the human touch of healthcare. As much as I love all the AI stuff, I don’t yet envision a world where we’re not seeing doctors.

To your specific question about the mental health space, the way we’ve thought about care in this space is rudimentary. There are different modalities of care that patients can and should be able to engage in and follow through on. We can fundamentally expand how we think about access in this space.

MedCity: Within the healthcare sector, how can organizations leverage technology without losing sight of the patient’s needs?

Gupta: I think about enabling the doctor-patient relationship. If we can bring great insights to that doctor so they’re more proactively engaging that patient, [the doctor] can actually be more of a general contractor for the patient’s health.

MedCity: What’s on the Horizon for Quartet?

Gupta: 2018 is definitely shaping up to be our best year and biggest year to date.

We’re currently live in six major markets. We’re going to significantly increase that pretty soon. I’d say our existing major customer partners are finding a lot of value in the program and are expanding with us. Our platform is significantly expanding. We are increasingly looping other care modalities and programs into this platform. I’d say the biggest thing is we raised a big financing round at the tail end of last year.

I think the market and our society is a lot more open to thinking differently about mental health.

Photo: Benjavisa, Getty Images