Cornell Tech’s Behavioral Health Next Summit: Showing the importance of integrating tech and behavioral health working together. 

By Liana Began, Cornell Tech

On March 6-7, 2023, the Heath Tech Hub of the Jacobs Technion–Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech broke down the silos across the healthcare sectors and disciplines and brought together clinical practitioners, researchers, health tech entrepreneurs, care delivery organizations, and payers for a two-day Behavioral Health Next Summit at the Verizon Executive Education Center on Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Island campus. The Summit was led by Dr. Tanzeem Choudhury, Roger and Joelle Burnell Professor in Integrated Health and Technology at Cornell Tech and Director of Health Tech, Danish Munir, Founding Partner at GreyMatter Capital, Ian Chiang, Partner at Flare Capital Partners, and sponsored by Optum and The Carson Family Charitable Trust.

Improving healthcare outcomes and delivery have always been important issues in the industry, but the increasing incorporation of digital technology in healthcare is creating more discussions on how and when these tools are used. Across the tech and healthcare industries, there is hope that by partnering early on through the diagnosis and prevention stages, patient care and treatment can be improved significantly. The COVID-19 pandemic signaled a clear shift in doctor/patient interactions. Doctors have adopted technology to conduct patient meetings virtually through Zoom and created new dashboard apps that allow patients to access their health records or review past visits. One thing is for sure — these shifts are happening and that digital connection is here to stay. However, while the benefits of blending technology with traditional healthcare are clear, what does the impact of this partnership mean for mental healthcare?

The Behavioral Health Next Summit brought together a diverse community of medical and tech professionals who shared thoughts and ideas on the state of the industry, and, more importantly, what actions can be taken within the tech space both now and in the future regarding mental healthcare. There were 35 speakers representing over 50 different organizations from startups to clinicians, providers, and academics. Keynote speaker Patrick J. Kennedy, former U.S. Representative and founder of The Kennedy Forum, kicked off the Summit by speaking on the importance of personal health data and shared his own personal struggles with mental health and addiction throughout his political career with a clear call to action for a modern-day advocacy group in the behavioral health space.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan led the second day’s discussion focusing on what problems the industry is solving and how that aligns with what patients need. Dr. Vasan also spoke on the importance of data and why it is crucial for the private and public sectors to work together to better the overall system. Dr. Vasan closed his talk by discussing how mental health struggles vastly differ from physical diseases and called for the immediate need to examine how mental health is addressed and treated: “We are in a mental health crisis, COVID has just put gasoline on the fire.”

Throughout the Summit, over 200 attendees from the community were brought together and experienced first-hand demonstrations from companies such as Cornell Tech startups MyLÚA Health and BreathePulse as well as from Cornell Tech PhD candidates. Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Vice Chairman and President of Global Infrastructure Partners and former President of World Bank Group, closed the Summit by speaking on his experiences working on HIV treatments and tackling existing behavioral health barriers. He talked about how what we need in mental health right now is movement and finding all the different ways to move on to get to where we need to be so outcomes are transformed and the stigma on mental illness is changed.

Cornell Tech’s Behavioral Health Next Summit was an inspiring and productive convening of the healthcare and technology industries, which also shone a necessary and vital light on the work being accomplished together by integrating tech and behavioral health.

Liana Began is Marketing Manager at Cornell Tech.