Mental health and emotional well-being are issues that are not well treated in our society because there are still taboos and the importance and care they deserve is not given. There is a lack of information and the current information someone can access is not communicated well.
Mental health is really important given that it is one of the components for integral development. However, mental health access in many countries around the world is limited and / or is expensive. As an example and according to the “Observatorio de Recursos Humanos del Ministerio de Salud Peruano” there are only 27,641 psychologists for a population of nearly 33 million.
Higia is a platform that offers online psychological consultations and connects a person with the ideal therapist / psychology according to their profile and using an internal test, generating that the experience of going to the psychologist is a moment that generates confidence. Moreover, Higia provides reliable psychotherapeutic content in a very understandable way, because it is believed that if someone does not understand and internalize the importance of mental health care, one will not be able to go to a specialist or seek the necessary help.
Higia was started 4 months ago with the purpose of generating a change in society as well as in our culture. Higia managed to gather 8 therapists as part of his team, provides access to +500 persons in Lima, provinces and abroad. The situation of fear and uncertainty produced by the Covid-19 has increased the number of people with anxiety, stress, depression as well as other mental disorders, which has put Higia at the service of all.
COVID-19 has added to the existing problems of mental health and emotional well-being- issues which are not well treated in our society because there are still taboos and the importance and care they deserve is not given. A rise in mental and social symptoms of loneliness caused by isolation, social distancing, and economic hardship has been witnessed during the global pandemic, and hence there is a need of platforms that are promising and are capable of addressing these underlying issues.
Health is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being (WHO, 2018)1. These 3 components are vital for the integral development of people.2 However, globally, mental health is not attributed the same importance as physical health; on the contrary, despite progress at the scientific level, in many countries it still remains indifferent.
According to the WHO, 25% of people suffer from a mental disorder, with 450 million people diagnosed worldwide (WHO, 2004). The problem increases at the Latin American level; where PAHO (PanAmerican Health Organization) statistics revealed that mental and neurological disorders represent 22% of the total burden of disease (Kohn & Rodríguez, 2009); There are deep gaps in the due access to treatment among those diagnosed, reaching up to 73.5% in adults with severe or moderate disorders and 82.2% in children and adolescents (Kohn & Rodríguez, 2009).
It is important to emphasize the serious consequences of a deteriorated mental health status ignored by public policies and society, unfortunately reaching suicide in many cases, demonstrated by PAHO studies, being 90% of suicide cases. derived from people with a mental disorder that can be diagnosed (Bedoya & Montaño, 2016).
According to the Government of Peru, this situation has been negatively impacted by the current crisis, the crisis is affecting the health of many people, especially those who suffer from anxiety or some depressive condition.
On the other hand, there are several factors that make finding a mental health professional difficult. In addition to the existing prejudice, there is no information on where to find a trusted one, additionally, the costs of the sessions are usually high. This causes something important not to be accessible to everyone. In addition, there is the time involved in taking physical sessions, many of the offices are not close, and traffic must be endured and be attended to late in a period of crisis. For both psychologists and patients, saving time generates well-being in their day to day.
Based on the above, we seek to overcome all these barriers, working together with a multidisciplinary team to reduce the gap in mental health care, between the burden of mental disorders and the adequate resources to face them. Through technology as a means and opportunity to provide mental health accessibility to all people from the comfort of their homes, even more in these times of uncertainty.
Higia is a platform accessible over web that offers online psychological consultations and connects a person with an ideal therapist by matching their profile and using an internal test providing a seamless experience to the user by making timely, private sessions available to the them with an ease-of-access.
Higia, is oriented to this problem, with a sustainable business model and using a virtual platform that offers online psychological consultations and connects those who need help with an ideal therapist according to their profile and based on a test, which considers the psychotherapeutic school and the personality of the patient. This also allows for a better experience and reduces the high levels of uncertainty for the patient. Additionally, Higia together with a team of psychologists provides mental health assistance to those in need and are considered a vulnerable population as well as educates with reliable psychoeducational content accessible to all from its networks.
Mental health today is a clear obligation not only for the World Health Organization, but also for governments, development cooperation agencies, foundations, research institutions and the business community. Therefore, Higia will continue to establish strategic alliances to connect people, professionals and institutions to respond in the best way to the Sustainable Development Goals such as: Health and Well-being, reduction of inequalities and decent work and economic growth.
Up to date, Higia has managed to assemble a team of 8 psychologists with more than 7 years of experience each. Thanks to their support, more than 500 people have been served since the #HablaConHigia Campaign began. In order to leverage the impact, Higia has managed to establish links with various organizations, such as: KUNAN, the largest network in social entrepreneurship in Peru; PROA, Peruvian volunteer platform and Hult Prize at PUCP, the Hult Prize On Campus program at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú; as well as 2 student organizations founded by students from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos to work together to raise awareness of mental health in the country.
How we built it
Higia is built with Twilio, providing a best-in-class video conferencing experience for the psychological consultations. The mobile app is built on Xamarin which delivers cross-platform compatibility for Android and iOS and accessing the web that is built with WordPress. It also leverages the power of Azure cloud services, ASP.NET Core backend and Spotify API to bring 'Happy-Hits' playlist experience to the users. We used Figma to design the frontend of our website for mobile screens. We began by conducting user research through interviews and surveys, and then developing wireframes and low to high fidelity prototypes for our final product.
Added Social Value:
According to the 2020 Global Digital Overview study by the Hootsuite agency, internet penetration in the region is 76%, while for Peru, penetration is 73% (Hootsuite, 2020). Higia takes advantage of this, bringing mental health professionals closer to the most vulnerable populations far from the capital: currently, and due to various “structural” factors (lack of study centers, logistics, among others), most professionals in Mental health is concentrated in the main urban centers. As an example, according to the Observatory of Human Resources of the Peruvian Ministry of Health, there are 27 641 registered psychologists, however, Lima concentrates the majority since it concentrates the majority of the country's university educational offer. Thus, Higia will not only reduce the employability gap in mental health professionals; If not, it will avoid mobilization, transport time and make psychologists accessible to remote areas where it would not be possible, being a basic and urgent need for them.
Given the situation, Higia launched the #HablaConHigia Campaign, through which psychotherapeutic help is offered to those who seek to be heard in these difficult times. Currently as part of our business model, and together with volunteer psychologists, we are providing mental health support to those who need and can not afford for a private consultation.
Finally, Higia educates and raises awareness in mental health, working together with professionals and sharing the content via social networks, this allows us to normalize speaking of these topics openly and without taboos.
Nadia Anees (UX Designer): Congnitive Science student at University of Californa, David (USA). 1 Year of experience on design (UX).
Daniela Domínguez (Brand developer & Visual Communicator): Bachelor of Arts and Design from Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola (Lima, Peru). 2 years and a half of experience on branding, and 1 year and a half on social media content.
Shivam Beniwal (Developer): Bachelor of Technology from Delhi Technological University (New Delhi, India) with a demonstrated background in leading initiatives with social impact and volunteering for Non-Profits and Non-Governmental Organizations, helping them deliver community-driven solutions and technology for social good.
Renato Martinez (Finance & Strategy): Bachelor of Finance from Universidad del Pacifico (Lima, Peru), 2 years of experience in investment banking (M&A), financial strategy and venture capital.
Daniela and Renato met each other at school 7 years ago, both reconnect in December 2020 to work on the mental health industry and launched Higia. They met Nadia and Shivam in the Covid Global Hackaton 2.0 Social & Mental Health
Challenges we ran into
We ran into few challenging tasks like creating internal tests to provide a therapist recommendations, and simplifying an appointment system to allow creating and viewing bookings.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're proud to bring our users acessibility to private, online video conferencing experience that doesn't discriminate with any underpriviliged sections of the society and introduce the 'Happy Hits' playlist with the help of Spotify that serve the purpose of providing a therapeutic and calming experience.
Also we are proud to meet people around the world with the same ideas and purposes to make a change and to be team with persons from different backgrounds and for different continents.
What we learned
In this journey so far, we learnt that how technology can help alleviate symptoms related to mental health- which is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and how we can provide people access to a platform that doesn't discriminate and makes psychological consultations a stress free process.
Communication is crucial, we have different time zones so planning was really important too. Also to ask for help and guidance to people with more knowledge of the matter.. Finally to think and work with a client/user centered way.
What's next for HIGIA
Our team looks forward to be recognized as an ally in the fight on mental health issues by scaling the platform, serve more users increase an overall reach. Also, we want to have more access to dissemination spaces in order to generate awareness in people and continuing education about mental health topics.
We will continue working hard on making more accesible and affordable mental health solutions to people in need.