Sutter Health, a large health system serving Northern California, has partnered with Docent Health to optimize Scout, a virtual mental health navigation platform for teens and young adults. Created by Sutter Health, Scout provides digital tools and human interactions that help young people build resilience and develop healthy coping strategies to improve their emotional wellbeing.

Docent Health, a healthcare consumer engagement platform within the GetWellNetwork, analyzes individual patients’ behavioral, social, personal, and clinical data. It creates comprehensive patient profiles that help providers personalize care and makes customized recommendations regarding individual healthcare and lifestyle choices. It also uses automated and live texting to keep patients engaged between provider visits and assist in navigating the healthcare journey.

Clinical experts worked with young people to design the Scout platform, which connects users with non-clinical guides. Via texts and phone calls, these guides provide users between the ages of 12-26 with research-based educational content that targets issues relating to depression and anxiety. Over 12 weeks, users have weekly check-ins with their guides and receive targeted information regarding sleep, nutrition, medication, communication, mindfulness, and other topics. In addition, caregivers, providers, and family members can also receive educational materials tailored to help them support a young user in managing anxiety or depression.

The partnership allows Scout to harness the power of Docent Health’s robust AI based on its large-scale dataset. Docent Health’s algorithms provide high-level customization based on both patient surveys and human interactions.

Both companies deserve commendation for focusing digital mental health solutions on young people in 2021. A recent online survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that young adults age 18-24 reported more mental health issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic than any other age group. Another CDC report shows that hospitals around the country saw an increase in mental health-related emergency visits in 12- to 17-year olds between April and October of 2020. Experts predict that the pandemic will continue to have a detrimental effect on mental health in the future.

Docent Health’s webpage states that the platform can assist in addressing inequities in healthcare by equalizing access and factoring in social determinants of health when designing personalized programs. Unfortunately, teens and young adults can bear the brunt of those issues as much or more than older Americans. For example, Mental Health America’s 2021 State of Mental Health report shows an increase in suicidal ideation among youth ages 11-17 was highest in those identifying as LGBTQ+. And findings published in January 2021 by the independent research organization Child Trends reveal that one in four Latino and Black households have experienced multiple co-occurring health and economic hardships during the pandemic; much evidence has demonstrated the negative impact living with such hardship has on the mental health of youth. Hopefully, Scout will take advantage of Docent Health’s equalizing capabilities to support young people across demographics.