Texting, for better or worse

synopsis
 

Talkspace’s success in the new field of behavioral therapy chat created a hype which my employer wanted to follow. Our telehealth company provided an online consultation platform and had established a nation-wide network of therapists. Therapy chat appeared accessible. My product design team was tasked to study these services and evaluate what it would take to enter this new market.

Therapy chat low subscription prices were appealing to consumers because they were cheaper than regular therapy sessions and appeared to provide an unlimited access to a licensed therapist.

But unlimited access and the difficulty of using a written interaction to communicate - compared to an verbal interaction - raised our concerns about sustainability and a viable provider’s compensation model. These assumptions were strengthened by early feedbacks obtained from therapists who had worked with messaging.

We tested the Talkspace and Better help to evaluate users’ experience and deduct provider’s workload to eventually make assumptions regarding the sustainability of such product. The interactions with therapists were highly rated by our testers. However reproducing “talk therapy” via the messaging medium proved difficult and time consuming. But paradoxically it engaged patients with dealing with their issues and pushed them to pursue their treatment. The usability issue related to writing created a strong incentive to purchase add-on services and plan upgrades.

Messaging was a device for user acquisition channeling patients towards more conventional means of treatment. Creating a sustainable therapy chat service wasn’t just about building a messaging app used for therapy.

Designing a competing application required to reproduce a similar model: a strong marketing effort to reach a new public, a segmented offer allowing a user to upgrade and buy extra services which revenue would eventually pay for a provider network dedicated to work with the messaging medium.  

Our work also revealed that the messaging medium was used in its most basic form. And its potential for augmenting a therapy experience was still untapped. We imagined several axis of innovation designed to add value to a messaging interaction in the context of behavioral therapy but could also be applied to any sort of mentorship / counseling interactions.

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