Dr. Hanne Horvath, Co-Founder and VP Business Development, HelloBetter
Mental health treatment is a sensitive matter. A person’s mental infirmities like depression, anxiety, insomnia, fears and addictions can bring him or her unspeakable suffering and yes, even death in rare instances. A person with mental health problems may begin to withdraw from other people as well because of the crippling shame, grief and guilt internally. So, he or she may become stuck in a slow downward spiral – others around him or her need to recognize this as a huge cry for help.
From the doctors’ point of view, the intangible nature of mental health illnesses makes treatment very challenging. Although researchers have made progress in better understanding mental health concerns as well as the ideal approach to treatment, we still encounter huge challenges: Our healthcare system isn’t capable of providing quality mental health support services because the number of patients in need is dynamically increasing but we’re experiencing a shortage of mental health professionals worldwide.
In spite of the challenges in providing quality mental healthcare support services, there is a silver lining on the horizon. Modern technologies can empower care providers to extend help to patients in creative, astounding and effective ways. In the context of European healthcare, Dr. Hanne Horvath is showing us the way by example. She’s the co-founder of HelloBetter – a steadily growing global online mental health care startup. Having dedicated her education as well as her career to improve the standards of mental healthcare provision, she has become a well-respected agent of positive change today.
A Desire to Improve the Mental Healthcare Industry
“My passion has always been to improve access to affordable and effective care for patients with mental health problems. At the core, I have wanted to support people to first help themselves before asking help from others. I had realized that this was a fundamental need of people with mental health problems,” Dr. Hanne Horvath says.
People with mental health problems tend to avail professional help only after many years of suffering. They are held back by the stigma from society externally as well as shame internally. When they are truly asking for help, they encounter many hindrances within healthcare systems – this is the case in many countries today. This eventually worsens the situation. “Our mission has been to close this gap in care, relieve the burden of the health system and give people with mental illnesses a stronger voice. We have wanted to provide quality mental healthcare services in a very low-threshold as well as effective manner,” Dr. Hanne Horvath says.
A Long Journey to Achieving Success
Dr. Horvath became enthusiastic about psychotherapy while still at school and earned her diploma in clinical psychology at the University of Trier. She then applied for the EU research project GET.ON at Leuphana University in Lüneburg, where she met her future co-founders Prof. Dr. David Ebert and Dr. Elena Heber. The project was exceptionally successful from the start. Dr. Horvath and team collaborated with the universities of Amsterdam and Marburg. In 2015 the university project converted to the company GET.ON Institute for Online Health Training. A year later, Dr. Hanne Horvath completed her PhD on her favorite topic, digital psychotherapy.
“I not only managed to found the company, I also managed to get through the maze of the German mental health care system and soon began to acquire the big insurance companies such as BARMER as clients. While the health and insurance industry in Germany had yet to be digitized and revolutionized, it was attractive for people like me who had a drive to change a conservative, highly regulated system in order to contribute to a bilateral improvement of the mental health care system for both insured persons and insurers”, Dr. Horvath explains.
In the context of a brand relaunch, the name GET.ON was changed to HelloBetter one and a half years ago. The startup has grown strongly since then. In the first quarter of 2021, HelloBetter was able to serve more users than in the years 2015 to 2019 combined. The user base has more than tripled from 2019 to 2020. Within the last few months, Dr. Horvath and her team were able to win new health insurance companies as partners. They reimburse the costs of using HelloBetter’s service for their members in full or in part. In addition to long-term partners Barmer and SVLFG, they now also work with Allianz Partners, Allianz PKV and AudiBKK and were also able to conclude a framework agreement with GWQ – a purchasing association of company health insurance funds.
Dr. Horvath is especially proud that more than 100 corporate clients, including several DAX companies, but also medium-sized companies such as Visit Berlin, Rebuy and Schaeffler, now offer HelloBetter courses to their employees. Due to the strong business growth, the team grew strongly, too. Since the beginning of 2020, the number of employees has more than doubled and counts around 70 team members today.
Science-Based Therapy Courses Crafted by Mental Health Professionals
From the very beginning, the company’s mission was to help people with mental health problems in a very low-threshold and yet effective way. On average, it takes six to eight years until those affected eventually decide to see a doctor or therapist. Stigma and shame are some of the main reasons why it takes so long until they finally look for help. And when they finally decide to seek treatment, the health systems in many countries often don’t make it easy. The average waiting time for a treatment place in Germany is up to six months, and some affected don’t get a therapy place at all. As a result, too many mental illnesses remain untreated and become chronic diseases over time or are only treated by general practitioners. Our mission was to close this gap in care, relieve the burden of the health system and give people with mental stress a stronger voice. HelloBetter’s platform provides scientifically proven online therapy courses with personal support for individuals. These therapy courses have been developed by an interdisciplinary team of scientists from fields like psychology, occupational medicine, health economics, computer science and design. Their team has taken lots of care to ensure that good quality courses can easily reach students anywhere in the world virtually.
Thanks to HelloBetter’s partnerships with numerous insurance companies, insurance payers can participate in their psychological online courses for free. “Overall, the cost of our psychological online training solutions is covered for over 15 million people in Germany. They receive free mental health support through HelloBetter,” Dr. Horvath says.
“The effectiveness of our online psychological therapy courses has been assessed in over 30 randomised controlled trials which have been published or are about to be. The results show that our online therapy courses are effective when compared with traditional face-to-face therapy. No other digital mental health start up can offer a similarly broad proof for the effectiveness of their solutions,” Dr. Horvath reveals.
Towards a Better Future
HelloBetter has been succeeding over the years thanks to Dr. Hanne Horvath’s passionate as well as empathetic leadership. So far, the company has been able to provide psychological online courses to tens of thousands of people. At the heart of the company, their purpose has always been to extend quality mental healthcare support services to everyone all around the world. For their valuable help, they have become recognized as an innovative leader in the field of electronic mental healthcare for years now. They have received a few prestigious recognitions too: the German Society of Behavioural Therapy award 2017, Novartis’ Digital Health Award 2018 and EU Compass Good Practice 2018 award, just to mention a few.
“We are working towards ensuring that everyone has access to our programs and that care structures improve measurably. Conditions like today, where for example 99 percent of all sleep disorders are not treated according to guidelines, will no longer exist in the future. General practitioners will prescribe less medication but help patients consciously and in an educated way with digital health applications from HelloBetter. Psychotherapists will use HelloBetter in their daily work with patients and also outsource psychotherapeutic content digitally or continue to accompany their patients digitally during aftercare,” Dr. Horvath concludes.