By Christopher R. von Jako, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, BrainsWay
There are three areas I focus on when it comes to building a successful, growth-oriented company: 1) customers who see the value in the product, 2) a product that customers trust and investors have confidence in, and finally, 3) a top-notch, empowered team. While these concepts may seem straightforward, and even part of the typical business school curriculum, knowing how to operate them amid a global pandemic is neither intuitive, nor part of the standard syllabus of an academic institution.
I was also charged with the unique challenge of leading a company like BrainsWay that directly serves patients impacted by the pandemic, as the nation spiraled into a mental health crisis. However, it was going back to these core concepts that not only got us through the turbulence of COVID-19, but landed us on a path to success that ultimately allowed us to serve even more patients during this time.
Raising awareness through product value
Traditional psychotherapy and pharmaceutical therapies fail in about one-third of major depressive disorder patients, with the same rate of treatment resistance, if not higher, found in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) patients. This has shepherded the demand increase for alternative solutions such as deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (Deep TMS), which is clinically-proven as a successful solution for these treatment-resistant depression, OCD and, most recently, smoking addiction.
The treatment is performed in a noninvasive way, as many patients opt to watch a show or scroll their text messages for their 3 to 20-minute session. Patients do not need anesthesia for the treatment and can return to daily activities after leaving their provider’s office, and, unlike pharmaceutical therapies, the treatment has no systemic side effects. While there are many desirable aspects of the treatment, these two provide an excellent example of a high-value product. In fact, we recently announced that more than 100,000 patients have been treated with Deep TMS, a major milestone that can be attributed to the value patients and providers alike have placed on this lifechanging technology.
The pandemic has also helped to shine a spotlight on the value of Deep TMS, along with traditional mental health services. Mental health has quickly become a second layer of conversation spurred by the pandemic, as rates increase of COVID-19 survivors who also report a major depressive disorder diagnosis following their bout with COVID-19. Nearly 90 million people have recovered from COVID-19 worldwide, and with the United States ranking first among nations in number of cases, it is cause for concern that we may face a secondary epidemic of mental illness.
Creating confidence among stakeholders
Numbers speak for themselves and can offer a strong foundation to build on when it comes to creating confidence in a product among customers and investors. In addition to showing how your product or service is successful on its own, it is critical to prove how it benefits the industry or solves an unmet need.
Digital behavioral health startups – to cite just one segment of the industry – attracted $588 million in venture funding in the first half of 2020 alone, which is roughly the equivalent of the annual funding for this segment in any previous year. As part of the growing industry, we were able to announce the closing of $45.2M in March 2021. We also had the opportunity to showcase the ability to address unmet needs in behavioral health through Deep TMS when we received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance for the use of the technology as an aid in short-term smoking cessation in adults. This marks the first FDA clearance in the addiction space for any TMS device.
Finally, while facts and figures offer tremendous clout, it is essential to couple them with clinically proven results. Deep TMS has been supported by more than 30 randomized, controlled studies with more planned or underway.
Last, but certainly not least, is the call for employee empowerment. As a mental health company, it is natural for us to have an acute awareness of ways we can foster the mental well-being of our team, but the pandemic brought this objective to new heights.
This took the form of increased communication, not only about pandemic-related issues, but also lifestyle, coping and self-care to support a healthy work-life balance. To ensure this was a two-way conversation we also deployed surveys to collect candid feedback and ideas. This is an ongoing process we plan to continue long after the pandemic subsides, as an empowered employee is one who feels they have a voice, and that voice is heard.
We also actively sought out ways to support the work of our employees. While this included remote work flexibility, it also generated new forms of communication and materials. For example, to support our sales team, we crafted more than 70 live webinars for current and potential customers. An empowered employee is an equipped employee.
In addition to rolling out new tools and pandemic-appropriate content to keep the work going, we also implemented strong boundaries in an effort to avoid employee burnout. BrainsWay is a multinational company (based in Israel and the United States). With customers all over the world, there are often challenges for employees. Work demands extending across multiple time zones have affected sleep, family time, and the rhythms of the day. An empowered employee is not an exhausted employee.
A silver lining
As challenging as the COVID-19 pandemic has been for the healthcare industry, it has also served to reinforce factors supporting growth, thus helping some businesses and organizations emerge from the pandemic stronger than they were at its onset. The pandemic has brought benefits to the mental health industry in the form of heightened awareness, increased investment, and employee empowerment that will yield benefits for years to come – not only for businesses and employees, but also for the millions who suffer from debilitating mental health disorders.
Christopher R. von Jako, PhD is President and CEO of BrainsWay. He is a technology-driven executive who brings over 25 years of leadership and experience in the global medical device market to his job. He is especially passionate about the development and commercialization of minimally invasive techniques to improve health and transform lives. For more information on BrainsWay, please visit https://www.brainsway.com/.