From the time I was 16, I battled a digestive disease known as ulcerative colitis. Like many chronic diseases, UC has a significant impact on one’s quality of life and takes tremendous effort, organization and resolve to manage in coordination with doctors. In fact, I started a company to address this very issue. My company, WellApps, helped people track health events to provide accurate information to doctors and to discover correlations between symptoms, diet, medications and other treatments. While this was valuable to many, it was a very small part of a much larger problem that continues to persist nationwide.
The WellApps platform was a social community for people with similar chronic diseases. I participated in the digestive disease community and it quickly became apparent to me that people were having trouble managing their physical disease because of underlying mental illness. I decided to conduct an observational study using patient-reported data we collected on the platform. The study showed a clear correlation between patient-reported stress and disease activity in ulcerative colitis patients. Upon researching this more, I discovered that there is a significant comorbidity of mental illness within the digestive disease prevalence. Digestive diseases are extremely difficult to manage and control when you’re mentally well. For those with comorbid mental illnesses, it must be nearly impossible.
I thought about my experience: I’ve seen plenty of physicians in my lifetime and none of them has ever given me a mental health screening. So, I asked myself – what could be done here? A good first step would be to encourage mental health screenings so that physicians are aware of implications on the digestive disease, and vice versa. Then, perhaps the Internists and Gastroenterologists could team up with mental health specialists to treat patients together.
Serendipitously, my phone rang in late 2015. It was a recruiter from a company called Quartet that enables primary care physicians to collaborate with mental health clinicians for optimal patient outcomes. Life is funny that way -I am now Head of Product at Quartet and pursuing this reality.
A nationwide collaborative physical and mental healthcare delivery system is inevitable. The problem is way too big to ignore. Quartet has made significant progress towards this reality with the help of the physical and mental health providers on our platform. However, a mission like this requires participation from the very people whose lives we want to change. For this reason, we launched the Quartet Ambassador Program (QAP).
The QAP will bring together people who have personal experience with physical and mental illnesses that require collaborative care. These ambassadors will reach into their respective communities and gather perspectives to guide our mission. We will work together to understand challenges, battle stigmas, and build an integrated healthcare platform that will change lives.
Interested to learn more about the QAP? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.