On the Tech Trail: Walks with Strategic Leaders

S2E5 Efficacy of Social Wellness

April 06, 2021 MassTLC & Matter Season 2 Episode 5
On the Tech Trail: Walks with Strategic Leaders
S2E5 Efficacy of Social Wellness
Show Notes Transcript

Boston is a global healthcare innovation hub, but inequality of access to care is a persistent challenge. As we emerge from the pandemic, what are our leaders doing to address these issues and move toward a healthier business and care ecosystem?  

In this episode, we’ll hear stories from the front lines about disparity in access, the impact of COVID on the systems that support global health, and the technology that’s moving us forward.  

Highlights from this episode: 

  • CVS Health’s Chief Digital Officer, Firdaus Bhathena, introduces the current inflection point for the healthcare industry 
  • Mark Butler, President of Cigna New England, discusses the tremendous acceleration to healthcare innovation coming out of the pandemic 
  • Debbie Theobald (Co-founder of Vecna Technologies) tells us what kinds of disruptive technologies to expect, and the challenges that come along with innovating in a monolithic space like healthcare 
  • Joshua Ness (Sr Manager at Verizon 5G Labs) describes the connective and equalizing power of emerging technologies 
  • CIC Heath Founder, Tim Rowe, moves the discussion toward mental and behavioral health and introduces how technology is shaping this space 
  • Carol Vallone, McLean Hospital’s Board Chair, digs deeper into mental health access issues exposed by the pandemic 

So, follow us on our journey this season as we investigate Boston’s challenges as a microcosm for bigger issues of equity and access. Through topics like access to technology, healthcare innovations, the future of education, and forward-thinking DE&I strategies, we take Boston’s Brand Problem out of the shadows — and onto the Tech Trail. 

Mark Butler:

There are tremendous disparities in individual's ability to access care.

Debbie Theobald:

What are all the barriers to that? And how can we help them to overcome that?

Carol Vallone:

Through the COVID experience, we've exacerbated hopelessness, anxiety, depression, trauma.

Tom Hopcroft:

Welcome to season two on the tech trail. I'm MassTLC CEO, Tom Hopcroft. And this season, we hear candid stories of the pandemic from some of Boston's most influential voices from issues of equity and access to technology and talent strategy. We're building off last season's insightful conversations as we tackle some of today's most burning questions. This episode, our guests dig into something that affects everyone everywhere, although often on equally, healthcare. We'll hear stories from the front lines about disparity and access, the impact of COVID on the systems that support global health and the technology that's moving us forward. We begin our discussion with Firdaus Bhathena, CVS's chief digital officer, on the current inflection point facing the healthcare industry.

Firdaus Bhathena:

You start to think about not just the work you do on a day-to-day basis, but the long-term impact it could have on the people you serve. And I really feel that the world of healthcare is ripe for disruption and transformation. It is an area that really needs a lot of people to come together, to help fix the problems in healthcare and make this world a better place when it comes to people's health. And boy, has COVID accelerated all of that? And it's always super exciting to be in an industry that's going through a transition. That's going through this inflection point. And trying to stay on the right side of the transition is really a fun challenge. And I think that's because waking up every morning and feeling like you're working on something that's front and center, on not just your company's mind or even just your customer's mind, but on the country's mind, is tremendously inspiring and empowering.

Firdaus Bhathena:

We understand that no one company, not even CVS Health, is going to create all of the innovations and breakthroughs in healthcare. How do you bring that all together for that one individual, for the human being in a personalized way that has a real meaningful impact on their lives? It's the people who make all the difference. It's the people in our pharmacies and our stores that honestly bring a tear to your eye with the effort they're putting in. So the digital story is interesting. The human story here is a thousand times more interesting. And if technology can fade into the background and enable people to do their best work and create that best environment for health, I think we've achieved our mission.

Firdaus Bhathena:

I think we've all discovered, and this is not unique to CVS or to our digital organization, that there are certain things that we can do virtually that we will probably continue doing virtually even when we have the option to go back into conference rooms. I don't relish the idea of starting jumping on planes the way we used to in the past. I think that's going to change. I think people are going to realize that tools have improved, expectations have changed, people are far more accommodating when it comes to being able to work virtually. It's funny how that happens when you don't have a choice. Huh? So here we are. As human beings, we've adapted and made it work. And I don't see us going back to something similar to what we used to be. It will be different. That's something we'll all discover together.

Sponsor:

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Tom Hopcroft:

Healthcare systems would evolve even under ordinary circumstances, but the speed at which the industry was forced to adapt as the pandemic became more widespread was to say the least, unprecedented. [Sydney New England's 00:10:39] president, Mark Butler, reflected on all the changes in healthcare this past year.

Mark Butler:

I think if you look at the last year, there's been tremendous acceleration and I'm going to say acceptance in how people want to access care because we've been in our homes largely a year right now. People have begun to understand that if you have to get virtual care and you can get it from a setting of your own home, it's convenient, it works. You can still have a personal relationship with a physician. What's happened as we've gone into the pandemic, is it's increased the intensity in the need around simplification, improved affordability, and predictability. But when we look at it, there's huge opportunity that comes with the challenge. How do you accelerate telehealth? Can you make it more affordable? Can you still provide a quality experience?

Mark Butler:

But I think what we'll find is there's going to be different accelerators and a value that can come out of what's been a very difficult situation. When we think about access to care, one of the things that the pandemic I think has, I'll use the word exposed, is there are tremendous disparities in individual's ability to access care. There's those areas that, from a health equity perspective, are very challenged areas. It might be a situation where there's not access to physicians and facilities. It could very well be that these people could not get to those physicians and facilities from even a basic transportation need. And then what we found in the side of the pandemic is that when we look at mortality rates of people of color, there were substantially higher than others.

Mark Butler:

And when we look at their ability to access care, they have been much more limited than others. So we've got a tremendous model work as a society and as a health service company and in the local communities that we live in to address this. In Massachusetts alone, there's been a tremendous amount of discussion on that because of the composition and the geographies of our cities, despite the fact that we have some of the best health care in the world. So I think if I look at a positive that's come out of the pandemic, it's brought these issues to light. They're not new issues, but it's brought them to light. And I feel like we're all working together around this issue now. I think we all feel we need to find solutions to solve this and to improve it. And I think we'll get on the right track to take those steps forward.

Tom Hopcroft:

But for as fast as these changes were happening, healthcare is in many ways difficult to disrupt. [Vecna Technologies 00:06:48] co-founder, [Debbie Theobold 00:06:49], knows this from experience.

Debbie Theobald:

Things that we anticipate and feel should be very modern, sometimes have no reality in the healthcare space. There are a lot of pushes for technical advances. How are people accessing healthcare? What are all the barriers to that? And how can we help them to overcome that? Things like the high-tech act getting everybody on electronic medical records, things like data standardization [across HL7 00:07:15] messages, and now Smart on Fire. Things like reimbursement for telemedicine visits that have been advocated for the last 10, 15 years. All of these things create a foundation that allows additional technology to be employed. And some of these conveniences these modern conveniences to come to patients. One of the negative impacts of some of this has been that there has been a vendor consolidation in EMRs. And with that vendor consolidation, they've also become something of guardians of data.

Debbie Theobald:

And so being able to get the data out of these systems requires cooperation from the EMRs and it also requires compensation. And so what is the incentive for these EMRs to create data transaction methods with anyone where they can provide an entire system that handles all of these things? Maybe not as good as some of these niche companies that make it their bread and butter and everything, their expertise, but it's good enough. And it's less hassle than actually trying to integrate with some of these niche solutions. So that's why some of the innovation within healthcare has been slowed. So there are some new things going on that are pushing the EMR to make available standard APIs that allow these integrations with other systems for standard datasets, your patient profile, your appointment schedules, your prescriptions, a summary of care document. Those types of things, all can be transmitted across these standard message types into other systems to consume, use, and make available for patients convenience and other activities you want to do with your health care.

Debbie Theobald:

Some of the barriers were, 'Oh, we're dealing with sick people, sick people don't want to use technology. We're dealing with old people. Old people don't know how to use technology." And all of those have been debunked at this point. And with the type of folks who are coming up in the world are these millennials. They demand to use technology. So all of these factors were coming into play prior to March 2020. And then in March 2020, the world stopped. Everyone just was like, "What are we going to do?" And they started canceling all of their appointments. Basically healthcare just couldn't work. And that happened through April and May. I think it was just mayhem trying to manage this new chaos. A couple of months into COVID then people started to get a handle on it. The cases were going down, summer was coming, and they felt a little bit of a pause to breathe.

Debbie Theobald:

In that pause to breathe, they realized we've got to open up our appointment schedule and start making some money here. These are businesses. How are we going to see patients safely? And so in that case, we started opening up virtual waiting rooms. And this was technology that would allow front desk staff to use texts instead of waiting rooms. So where else do you see this? You go to any restaurant right now, they'll hand you a pager, they'll take your cell phone number, and they'll say, "Go shop in the mall, go do something else, sit in your car. And we will text you. You don't have to hang around." This is the same concept that we started to apply to healthcare.

Mark Butler:

When we think about health care services, what we've tried to create is really an ecosystem where people can access care any way they want to.

Tom Hopcroft:

Again, Sydney New England's Mark Butler.

Mark Butler:

They can call us, they can go online. They can chat, they can do a 24 seven. We have live attendance. And that addresses really any age, any demographic because people want the information when they want it, how they want it. So think about everything that we do through the portable phones. So while the demographic shifts will drive cost considerations and access to different therapies, what we think is going to be very important is that people to have a way to get access to information. And they need it to be accurate. And it very quick, very simple, very easy manner, and they want to make care decisions off of them. So when we think about the impact of the pandemic, the pandemic really has changed everything about the way we work, where we work, when we work, how we access services and really how we're going to live our lives as we go forward. Those changes will probably be lasting changes.

Tom Hopcroft:

Technology can be transformative, but how we get to those transformations is often unexpected. Again, Firdaus Bhathena.

Firdaus Bhathena:

I didn't come from the world of healthcare as a professional into [inaudible 00:11:49] four and a half years ago, or so, but I have been married to a pediatrician for 27 years plus now. Something that gets played over and over again in our family is friends and family texting her, asking her a medical question saying, "Hey, little Jane is holding her ear and screaming her head off. I don't know if her brother jammed a pencil in her ear and perforated her eardrum or whether she just has an ear infection. What do I do? It's 10:00 PM on a Saturday night. What am I supposed to do?" Typically, what happens is that they bring the child over. I make coffee and keep the parents busy while my wife checks out the kid and she takes out her auto scope.

Firdaus Bhathena:

Now, shouldn't we all be so lucky that we have a friend or a family member who can do that for us. Unfortunately, that's not a problem we can solve at scale with just human beings. This is where technology can play a role. So roll forward a few years, what you're going to see is when you join a health plan or become part of a health community, you'll get a box of stuff shipped to your home, in addition to the email that says welcome to the club. It will have a bunch of connected devices in it. One of those will be a connected auto scope. So when this same scenario plays out in a couple of years, mom or dad will pick up their connected auto scope, put it into their child's air, wait for the light to turn green, which means it's properly positioned. And a second later you'll get, on your mobile device, an assessment of what it thinks the problem is.

Firdaus Bhathena:

This is the stuff AI is really, really good at. So the app says to mom or dad, that little Jane, it looks like there's a 73.8% likelihood that this is just a normal ear infection, tap here to begin a tele-consult with your local nurse practitioner or a health practitioner. You do that. You're now in a virtual care session. They see the same thing that the AI looked at. They can confirm if necessary, in some cases. If it's above a certain threshold, you may not even need that confirmation. You can actually ask questions, you engage in it. Maybe you do it via chat instead of a video session. And then a half hour or 45 minutes later, the antibiotics are delivered to your house.

Firdaus Bhathena:

When I say this at home, of course my wife says, "So what am I going to be doing in this picture?" So that's an interesting conversation. And I think we are empowering our physicians and our primary care practitioners to focus on the things that matter the most, and spend more time on the things that matter the most while technology can enable the run of the mill mundane stuff. That's what technology has always done. It's takeaway the tasks that human beings shouldn't have to do so they can actually focus on the next level up.

Tom Hopcroft:

These technologies are empowering doctors to focus on giving better care to more people. Again, Sydney New England's Mark Butler.

Mark Butler:

We have a very dense, highly populated, excellent hospital and physician systems inside of metropolitan Boston. The reality is that if you go two to three hours North, or two to three hours West or South, we're in much more rural areas. Oftentimes they're very small towns, may not have a hospital, may have a few physicians, certainly may not have any of the high-end specialists that we would see in a metropolitan area like Boston. Where technology can come in and play an important role here is we can actually bring highly specialized physicians with the use of artificial intelligence and their specialties into some of these rural communities.

Mark Butler:

So we can triage with local physicians that may be in those communities, come back down into the specialty tertiary care hospitals and physicians that are in an urban center like Boston or New York, and actually bring that information and expertise back out to these rural communities. When we look at some of the struggles that communities are having, and the financial challenges are having with old line manufacturing leaving these communities, oftentimes a local community hospital closing up, the use of this type of intelligence is going to be essential if we're going to really still provide quality care for both urban and rural areas.

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Tom Hopcroft:

Josh Ness leads Verizon 5G labs, where he solve some of the biggest puzzles around connecting people with the care they need. And here's where the connective and equalizing power of emerging tech comes into the healthcare picture.

Josh Ness:

Allowing doctors and hospitals to have access to 5G is already proving to be transformational. We're already starting to see use cases where doctors can perform exams on patients. And that data is analyzed in real time. And artificial intelligence is able to suggest that this patient might have an underlying or an overlying health condition that a doctor might have missed on a first pass the patient might not have known about. And so this is possible at scale, using 5G combined with edge capabilities where an AI can live and provide that feedback in real time. There are a few categories and one of course, is the one that everyone likes to talk about, which is robotic surgery. The idea that a doctor in one place can be operating on a patient that's in someplace completely different, who is undergoing surgery, being performed by a robot that's controlled by the doctor. And all of this being done remotely.

Josh Ness:

And this is a use case that highlights all of the great benefits of 5G. The large throughput, the high volume of data, as well as the low latency and the consistence of latency because it's not necessarily just super low latency. That latency has to be consistent and without having any spikes or lags in order for things like robotic surgery to be successful. And that's the one that a lot people like to talk about. We're a little ways off from there. Where we're seeing success right now, things like detection mechanisms, where a doctor can be performing an exam on a patient, and the data from that exam hardware, let's say it's something like a colonoscopy where data can be relayed to artificial intelligence that analyzes the imagery coming out of that scan out of that exam and is able to deliver with a fairly high degree of competence information about whether or not something might be malignant.

Josh Ness:

And this is a way to facilitate advanced detection and 5G allows this to happen at scale. So 5G allows for exams like that to not require a doctor's office or a hospital to have the facilities or the resources to accommodate large and expensive infrastructure for compute and artificial intelligence. Because 5G can enable, sometimes even public edge computing, to facilitate a lot of those computational processes that otherwise would be kept in-house. And so the future could be that a doctor's office or a hospital is using 5G on a specific slice of spectrum, and then accessing compute capabilities that are allowing it to take advantage of all of these AI benefits that we just described. Now to bring it even home a little further for something that touches even more people, might be the usage of things like computer vision in a hospital. When we say that, we're talking about cameras. We're talking about cameras that are recognizing people and things and activities that in a hospital environment in many cases are recorded.

Josh Ness:

They need to be written down whenever a blood pressure is checked, whenever a patient is turned over, whenever any medial task is done, it has to be recorded. And there's a lot of other elements of things that something like computer vision, if it's analyzing patterns, and it's analyzing what is happening in a space, can provide new contextual information. I'll give you an example. In a lot of hospitals, patients are given certain colors of socks to determine whether or not they're at risk of falling. And so if a nurses station sees someone in the hallway with a certain color of socks on, they know that that patient is at risk of falling. And they have to immediately go and take care of that patient and make sure that they get to where they're going without falling and hurting themselves.

Josh Ness:

With something like computer vision, It can check to see if that certain color of socks is moving around in a space and it can notify a nurses station immediately. And that's a very basic example, but now extrapolate that and scale that across all these different functions to where it would be really handy for a nurses station or a doctor to know whether or not something is happening in a space when it's happening in real time so they can then react to that. And so these were things that 5G can afford. It can do it with a fairly inexpensive camera that's recording in high definition, and then can aggregate a lot of these speeds. And a lot of the information, run it through all of the aforementioned artificial intelligence resources that are existing either locally or in some a hybrid edge cloud scenario, and then able to allow these healthcare professionals to allocate their resources more efficiently.

Tom Hopcroft:

The potential impact of artificial intelligence on healthcare is massive, but largely unexplored. We're amassing smarter datasets that allow us to recognize patterns and solve for common health issues. Liz Reynolds, from MIT is taskforce on work of the future, tells us more,

Liz Reynolds:

What I hear from a lot of the AI experts at MIT is that we need to rethink how we have envisioned how AI will work. Historically, the goal was to really create AI that can substitute for human. They can do tasks and it can work without a human there. And that's success. What if we re-imagined how AI should be used. And actually the goal is not about replacing humans. We're not looking for a robot that's going to come in and take care of your elderly parent. That's just not the model we're looking for. And maybe that's the goal of the technology and of the AI and not just replacing that home health care worker who provides so much more than just those tasks, but also can provide, I think, social and emotional inputs as well.

Liz Reynolds:

So that's, I think the vision here. Can we think about ways in which we're augmenting the worker, we're actually making those significant efforts and growth. It moves people up a value chain where they become more focused on customer service and on answering questions that require a little bit more human engagement. And I think ultimately that's a more rewarding career path as well for people.

Tom Hopcroft:

Again, Vecna Technologies, Debbie Theobold.

Debbie Theobald:

AI is used very broadly in many industries. It could be as much as clever algorithms where it can be a true machine learning and artificial intelligence. In healthcare, there have been very few true applications of AI, and I'm still waiting to see the big impact moment for AI in healthcare. I think as far as large datasets and research, that it has some direct applicability right now. Some of the personalized medicine is also a good application of AI. I've heard and read about the datasets that are informing some of these algorithms and the learning that's coming out of these. And that they do need to be more inclusive and expansive. I think with the awareness that will come in time and I would just advocate for more and more awareness and that as people who build these systems understand the assumptions and limitations of their systems, that we can bound the outcomes that then the conclusions that we're drawing from those. Anytime you're in an engineer, and you're building a system, you always start with a list of assumptions, always. You have to,

Debbie Theobald:

Otherwise, your variables are all unconstrained and you can't make any decisions. And so it's not wrong. It's not bad, but it exists. And so as you keep producing, you challenge those assumptions. And if something isn't working, you go back and you say, "ell, what was I assuming to begin with? And was that a correct assumption? Or do I need to change that?" And if you need to change it, change it. And your formulas will come out. You have a better system at the end, but if you keep working with bad assumptions and bad data, nothing's going to fit. We're in a very much unawareness stage right now. And people becoming aware of it as critical talking about it, identifying it, and then building systems for the future that avoid it.

Tom Hopcroft:

Once again, Firdaus Bhathena.

Firdaus Bhathena:

One of the key benefits of AI is that it just gets better with time. It gets better as you throw more data at it. So for example, right, my wife, she may look at a dozen or so ear infections over, I don't know, a two week, three week, four week period. A machine learning system can look at 2 million images of those infections in a few seconds. And so there are certain things that AI is good at, and we'll just keep getting better at. That is going to be very hard for humans to do. And that's okay. Image recognition, image processing is one of the key areas where AI can actually make a real difference. Clearly there will be situations in which AI doesn't quite get it right the first time. And we have to sort of go back to the drawing board and fine tune it.

Firdaus Bhathena:

We should all be prepared to do that. It's going to be a while before an AI system will recommend a cancer drug without a human being, being involved. But when it comes to looking at a rash on your arm and giving you, I think it's 98% plus accuracy, on telling you what the rash is, is something a human being is not going to come close to. Let's use the tools in the areas where they can be most effective and continue to research and improve in the areas where they're not. Responsible use of AI and actually responsible use of technology. In general, I think happens when it's guided by responsible people, making sure that we are open-minded about the biases that AI is susceptible to. No one, I think has all of the answers there. But the fact that we are at least aware of it and are not sweeping it under the rug, gives me hope

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Firdaus Bhathena:

Before the break, we heard about how AI can give more people better access to care. But that's not the only way technology has shaped how people interact with their health. [Tim Rowe 00:26:40], founder of Cambridge innovation Center, in CIC health has seen the toll the pandemic has taken on our mental and behavioral health.

Tim Rowe:

One of the interesting questions has been where are the frontiers in health. And what can we do to make the world a better place through health? An interesting area isn't the behavioral health. It is the health that stems from how we live our lives, how we take care of ourselves when we're not at the hospital, we're not seeing the doctor. This is probably the most interesting frontier of health in the sense that it's something that we can all do something about ourselves. We can be aided in it with our Fitbit or other devices and technologies that are coming along. I foresee a world in which we will be the doctor for ourselves more and more over time. We will have the data, we'll have an AI, which is telling us what we don't want to hear, but we need to know about our health and what we need to do. So I foresee a world in which many of us, not all of us will have an opportunity to be healthier and be supported to be healthier through these kinds of techniques and technologies.

Tom Hopcroft:

Carol Vallone, McClain Hospital's board chair has seen similar trends.

Carol Vallone:

Priority around for me around age and tech savvy is that younger consumers are interested in the provision of mental health services differently than the older generation. Older generations are very used to face-to-face care with healthcare practitioners in general. And I feel like in terms of mental health or any services, younger generations are more interested in virtual treatments. They're more interested in virtual access. They're more interested in ease of access, and incredibly comfortable in technology-based access. So taking that as a backdrop and now looking at what's happened with the pandemic, right now 50 to 60% of the population says they feel an impact from the pandemic. McLean's Hospital's website, mclean.org has a lot of information around what populations are suffering from mental health issues and the statistics that are associated with each population. We see the biggest issue around healthcare access and equity around reimbursements.

Carol Vallone :

The fact that behavioral health professionals are typically reimbursed at 20% lower than a primary care physician, which means many of them then go self-pay, which means that those that are already financially strained have more difficulty actually paying for services. So costs and inadequate insurance, or a big deterrent to seeking services. People have lost their jobs. It makes it more difficult. And then lack of access to technology to support virtual sessions is a real issue in terms of equity and access. Through the COVID experience, we've exacerbated hopelessness, anxiety, depression, trauma, where you're isolated at home. You're not interacting with people, just take isolation and take financial stress and take fear of illness. And all of those in and of themselves, are each of those in and of themselves could cause more stress and anxiety put all that together. And we've really exaggerated people that may have a predisposition for mental health issue.

Carol Vallone :

And even those that don't are feeling a strain. So when we really deal with populations that are underprivileged and less well-served and less will support, you're dealing at pure survival level. And that they've been cut off from survival. Some of the problems that we see heading into the future just overall and the behavioral health landscape, first of all, there's a shortage of trained psychiatrists. We have an inadequate supply and there's not enough coming out of medical school. So 85% of shortages are in rural geographies and we take roughly 7,000 behavioral health professionals to reverse the trend. We have got scientifically based treatments for mental health. What we don't have is the delivery model figured out yet in a way that we're meeting the patients where they are. So interesting statistics, more seriously, mental ill individuals are incarcerated than are in state hospitals right now.

Carol Vallone :

You're likely to encounter the police when you're in a crisis. We've got 2 million people jailed each year, 83% of those in jail don't get treatments. Once in jail, you're going to get worse. Are we thinking about if we could solve the cross state licensing issue, if we could solve the reimbursement issue, if we can use technology to meet people where they are, we still need to meet the supply. That the supply of psychiatrist, the people type issue. If we can use technology to monitor behaviors, we can inform clinical care. We can show behavioral patterns. We can show physical symptoms. So what we see right now is the reality of where we are, is I believe mostly tainted around the lack of use of the existing infrastructure to meet people where they are for the provision of service. And you can throw technology at that. You can throw people at that, but you've got to solve the delivery model.

Carol Vallone :

Mental health issues are chronic. It's not like a typical medical issue where you have a treatment you're typically cured. And then you move on in life with mental health issues. You're typically dealing with a lifetime of issues and the lack of intervention early on only exacerbates that issue. So in terms of focus and in terms of life experience, it's really important that early education embeds mental health education, mental health toolkits into the classroom, and the fact continues in terms of understanding and awareness of teachers to help them understand what students might not just be a problem student, but why having mental health issue. And that should continue throughout life experience. We have this de-stigmatizing campaign, de-stigmatizing mental illness. It's everyday people. It exhibits that are around the globe, tailored to communities where they're displayed around issues that those people are dealing with. So I know in my community, I can relate to people that have a situation similar to mine.

Carol Vallone :

And mental health representation and diverse data is really important because for the most part, people don't think it happens to me or people like me, yet We know that the statistics are one in 10 children are suffering from mental health issue. One in four college aged students, one in five adults. And today we know that greater than 50% of the adult population is reporting a mental health issue. No one is spared. Yet people are reluctant to be part of a group that they view as highly stigmatized. The pandemic has really helped people understand that, first of all, you're not alone if they're suffering and if they don't feel like they're suffering, that there is an education that needs to occur around what mental health impact is on people around the globe right now. We've seen a lot more tailoring and personalizing messaging based on the reasons people within certain populations are suffering from mental health issues. And what they can do to help support themselves. I think a lot of people have the mindset of once everybody's vaccinated, we're done., No there's a lot to do.

Carol Vallone :

We have to reorient all of us to, what are our new business practices and protocols? What are our new methodologies around education? How do we deal with the long-term impact of that isolation, the anxiety, the depression that came about because of the pandemic? And my fear is that as a society, we'll just say, "Okay, we're done, move forward." And it's just beginning on the mental health front. So I think practices and protocols and education around easing back into "normalcy" is going to be extremely important.

Tom Hopcroft:

So it's on us as leaders to ensure that the transition to a new normal is safe, supportive, and sustainable, whether that's by thoughtfully adopting emerging technologies or just acknowledging the realities of how the pandemic has changed the world around us. Special, thanks to our guests, Mark Butler, Debbie Theobald, Liz Reynolds, Josh Ness, Tim Rowe, Carol Vallone, and Firdaus Bhathena for sharing their stories and insights. And thank you listeners for joining us today, follow us on our journey this season as we investigate Boston's challenges as a microcosm for bigger issues of equity and access. Through topics like access to technology, healthcare innovations, the future of education, and forward thinking diversity, equity and inclusion strategies. We take Boston's brand problem out of the shadows and onto the tech trail.

Beth York:

On The Tech Trail is a joint effort by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council and Matter, a brand elevation agency, and is made in partnership with Invest Northern Ireland. Our host is Tom Hopcroft. Special thanks to Kristen Keane and Mackenzie LeBert from MassTLC for booking our incredible guests. Our producers are Gabe Gerzon, David Riemer and me, Beth York. Without our editors, David Riemer and Mandy Lawson, each episode would have been three hours long at least. Our graphic designer, Tanner Bjorlie, makes us look good, and writer Shaw Flick makes sense of it all. Our executive producer is Tim Bradley, who works inside a closet. Our theme music is by Mikey Geiger.

Beth York:

Thanks to everyone involved for contributing, collaborating, and bringing season two to life. If you loved it too, keep the conversation going by sharing on social, or by leaving us a rating or review in your podcast app. It makes a huge difference. And if you've got an idea for a pod, let us know at [email protected] And maybe I'll be reading your name in the credits one of these days. Until then, see you next time on the Tech Trail.