FeelingBetterNow

Collaborating with clinicians and developers to build and launch a new vision for mental health management

THE PRODUCT

$6 billion is lost annually to mental health related sick leave, productivity loss and turnover.

FeelingBetterNow helps employees identify risks early and take action, reducing disability and transition costs for employers.

Starting Point

FeelingBetterNow launched in 2006 as a B2B mental health SaaS platform where individuals could screen themselves for a variety of common mental health disorders. Users completed clinician-developed computer-adaptive assessments and received an analysis of their mental health risks. At-risk users could download clinician-approved treatment protocols, expediting the care process by making it easier to adhere to a treatment plan.

FBN took a different tack from traditional enterprise-focused EAP programs that offered in-person psychological counselling to help employees deal with stress, financial or legal problems. FBN focused exclusively on the early identification and action for high-cost medical issues like depression and anxiety.

The Challenge

By 2013, EAPs had cut costs, added online services and begun moving towards the vertical integration of online and in-person services. Although their core strengths remained focused on reactive disability and absence management, FBN risked being downgraded from “must-have” to “nice to have”.

The problem was compounded by the fact that product iterations to FBN were costly and time consuming to implement. FBN had been built by a third party vendor and did not have an in-house team capable of conducting ongoing development. As a result, FBN’s feature set did not effectively reflect the unique competitive advantage of the company’s medical leadership.

FBN was showing its age as mental health was moving into the mobile era.

I was tasked with developing and implementing a rebuild strategy to position FBN for the future and deliver measurable and lasting value for our clients.

01

Approach Strategy

One of my first actions upon taking charge of the project was to conduct an audit of the architecture underpinning the original build of FBN. The accumulation of technical debt meant that it wasn’t set up to be easily updated without significant changes to the code base.

Hosting Costs

When FBN launched, cloud application hosts like Amazon Web Services were not widely available. As a result, the company was experiencing a form of vendor lock-in as it was stuck paying high fees to host FBN application data on the third party vendor's servers. While a rebuild of FBN would not be cheap, significant savings would be realized by transitioning to a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).

Change Related Costs and Delays

Due to the way in which content templates had been designed, making something as small as a text change required a lengthy process of creating a support ticket, waiting for the developer to work through the queue of tickets to reach ours, and then implement, test and “push” the change to the production environment. Each change required developer time, which was billed to the company. The new FBN would require a Content Management System front end for non-developers to easily make changes to content.

KEY TASKS

  • ARCHITECTURE AUDIT
  • SCOPE PLANNING

02

Competitive Analysis

Where are we falling short? What are we still doing better than anybody else? Reviewing the use cases and individual strengths of other products helped me identify ways in which FBN could offer meaningful differentiation and play to its unique strengths.

landscape review app images headspace, self-help anxiety

EAP-built online portals and mobile apps were targeted at streamlining processes within their business ecosystem. End-users of such apps could use it to conduct simple health risk assessments, access basic educational information and schedule counselling appointments, but not much more.

Mobile Apps (non-EAP)

App stores are inundated with freely available mental health mobile apps. The vast majority were of a direct-to-consumer nature and were ad-supported. Most were educational in nature and focused on the treatment of a single condition, e.g. depression. Some apps were developed with medical expertise and featured evidence-based wellness functionality like mood diaries, guided meditation or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). For the average user however, discoverability of these high-quality apps was poor, as laypersons without domain knowledge in mental health would struggle to separate the signal from the noise.

Mental Health Websites

Websites were similar to apps in terms of their focus on educational content. While there were websites that offered mental health assessments using clinical criteria such as PHQ-9, they fell short of FBN because they could only indicate that you were at risk and not what you could do to take action or connect with a care provider. While some websites provided contact information for emergency rooms or crisis hotlines, many were localized for the province they were developed for, and some featured broken links or page redirects that didn’t work.

KEY TASKS

  • SWOT ANALYSIS
  • CONTENT STRATEGY

03

New Product Vision

Simply addressing user requests isn't much of a vision. Sometimes people won't know what they want until they see it in front of them.

With FBN's implementation expertise in enterprise settings and decades of medical domain knowledge, we were in a unique position to put forward a bold vision that clearly demonstrated value to both individuals and employers and differentiated our offering from everything else that was out there.

Regular meetings helped define everyone’s goals and agendas and identify areas where conflicts could occur and compromises would need to be made. More importantly, however, this process ensured that management felt a sense of ownership and control of the project as we moved forward.

KEY TASKS

  • CLINICIAN INTERVIEWS
  • ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH

04

Defining Requirements

Documenting requirements for the new FBN had a few key elements:

  • Defining the business case
  • Writing specific requirements using user stories and logic diagrams
  • Setting expectations regarding project management and quality assurance

Before a single line of code was written, each screen had to be sketched out as a wireframe. This ensured that the flow of screens was logical and that users didn't get lost trying to navigate through or locate all the features.

KEY TASKS

  • UX AUDIT
  • WIREFRAMING
  • SCOPE CREEP MGMT

It's challenging to pitch a complex concept like workplace mental health to end-users in 30 seconds. We needed to display clarity of purpose by stripping the product down to the bare essentials.

A Holistic Mental Health Assessment in 10 minutes

Download your results and a clinician-designed action plan personalized for you. Your results can be sent directly to your EAP counselor too.

If you can't see a care provider right away, don't worry.

Use the FBN Toolbox to access apps, e-books and other doctor-curated resources to focus on wellness while you wait.

Don't know where to start? Let us guide You

FeelingBetterNow connects you seamlessly to a wealth of wealth of support resources, either in your organization, or your community (family doctors and crisis hotlines).


Building trust with users by developing a robust toolbox of physician-curated resources for self-care


STRESS REDUCTION

E-books, apps and symptom information to help you manage everyday stress

CARE PROVIDER INFORMATION

Navigating the mental health support system shouldn't be a challenge. We developed a mini-guide to help people learn about the roles of different care providers such as psychologists and social workers as well as common types of evidence-based therapies.

MENTAL HEALTH KNOWLEDGEBASE

Psychologist-authored information about all 13 mental health conditions covered by FeelingBetterNow, covering topics like symptoms, treatment, follow-up and best practices

SELF-CARE COMPASS

Access online CBT, view your assessment results and track your progress.


A Clear Value Proposition for Enterprise

The unparalleled medical credibility of FeelingBetterNow helps employers improve the effectiveness of their employee support programs across the board.


Healthy Workforce, Healthy Bottom Line

If diagnosed early, mental health conditions often don't require medication to be treated effectively. By encouraging employees to complete confidential mental health checkups, employers stand to save substantial amounts in disability leave and prescription drug benefits payments.

FBN Connects Employees at all points of care, saving time and money

Employee counseling sessions take 60 minutes on average. By emailing FBN assessments ahead of the appointment, employers benefit by greatly reducing the amount of time needed in sessions to get to the root of the problem.

FBN Analytics helps improve your wellness programs

FBN provides employers with real-time, data-rich reports with anonymized statistics that paint a vivid picture of employee wellness at every branch or office.

THE FINISHED PRODUCT

After a meticulous quality assurance process that involved automated testing procedures and the documentation and resolution of over 600 bugs, we launched the brand new FBN to a client base of nearly 1,000,000 Canadians.

Custom Branding for Corporate Clients

Most enterprise-focused wellness solutions tend to prominently display their own branding. We set ourselves apart by allowing clients to customize FBN to reflect their own brand identity. This image shows the FBN portal for GE Canada, one of the country's largest enterprise groups. With a custom background image and logo, GE Canada is able to reflect a sense of ownership over the product and represent its interest in the well-being of their employees.

Seamless connection to community crisis hotlines

Our landscape review showed that, for the average person experiencing self-harm ideation, finding help in their area was not easy. We simplified that process substantially by developing an easily navigable database covering every province and territory and developed internal processes to ensure that it was always up to date, so individuals in crisis could be seamlessly connected to care, wherever they were.

Integrating All Enterprise Wellness Resources

Most EAP solutions took a "walled garden" approach by only promoting services available through them. Here, the "constraint" of FBN's online-only nature became an advantage. We customized each portal to display all support resources available through the employer, including contact information for EAP services, family counseling and more.

Now, when employees needed help, they could come to FBN rather than have to look through an unintuitive corporate intranet site or make a potentially uncomfortable phone call to their HR representative.

RESULTS

The rebuild had an immediate impact in terms of improving margins and giving the company a higher profile in the enterprise market.

80%

Savings in cloud hosting and maintenance costs

30 minutes

Time needed to launch a new customer portal, down from 3 days

25%

Increase in sales to enterprise customers

80%

Increase in user engagement

(Time on site, User sign-ups, Toolbox utilization)

Recognition from the leading governmental body focused on Workplace Mental Health

A major goal of ours was to open the door towards working with the Mental Health Comission of Canada, a federal body that developed and implemented guidelines for psychological safety in the workplace. Following the release of the new FBN and a series of meetings with the MHCC, FBN received formal recognition from the body by way of a Letter of Support, which was unprecedented for a privately held company.

For a small company like ours, an endorsement like this was enormously important. The new FBN was now a highly distinctive, enterprise-grade product, but we still did not have the financial and marketing muscle of EAP providers that was proving to be necessary to get our foot in the door with large employers. We operated in an industry where a single-page advertisement in an issue of an HR journal ran $10,000 on average. A exhbitor presence at a wellness trade fair wasn't much cheaper.

The MHCC endorsement laid the groundwork for an organic marketing strategy that was far cheaper and more effective:

  • Work with the MHCC to arrange introductions with their corporate partners
  • Expand our Clinical Advisory Board to add leaders in mental health practice
  • Develop strategic partnerships with mental health non-profits with better PR capabilities than our own
  • Leveraging the endorsement to open doors for lucrative contracts with large-scale civil service employers such as law enforcement and emergency services.

EXCERPT

"FeelingBetterNow® is a made-in-Canada innovation in e-Mental Health. FBN is well positioned to support this goal with its focus on reducing stigma and empowering individuals to take action to stay healthy and productive at work.”

Sapna Mahajan
Director of Workplace Initiatives
Mental Health Commission of Canada


TEAM FEEDBACK

"Rafi's diligence as client-side project manager was key to the success of delivering a high quality product in FeelingBetterNow(R). He provided prompt and clear input regarding business rules and logic during the software wireframing process. His careful attention to detail during the quality assurance phase ensured that software bugs were identified, documented and addressed swiftly, helping keep the project on track. He would be a valuable member of any product development team."

Graham Lavender
Project Manager
The Pixel Shop

"Rafi demonstrated great attention to planning, formulating and executing creative solutions to business challenges. He was instrumental in bringing forward a new, more marketable version of the FBN software. This was done well under budget and incorporates essential features like sharing software outputs with healthcare providers via secure email integration. I have no hesitation in recommending Rafi for health IT project management or strategic planning teams."

Dr. Marion Lyver, MD
Chief Medical Officer
Mensante Corporation


FINAL THOUGHTS

The process of building an entirely new product usually goes beyond the writing and testing of code. In the case of FeelingBetterNow, this process challenged several long-held assumptions about the identity of the company.

For years, providing an evidence-based wellness tool was more than satisfactory for Mensante. The potential of the new FBN (not to mention the complexity of its development) meant that the company would need to switch gears to market the tool more effectively for both its existing clients and new prospects.

Was Mensante a wellness company or also a technology company? How do we scale the organization to support the new customers, and what should the roles of the new hires be? What processes do we need to put in place to effectively monitor the competition?

I'm pleased to say that this process allowed us to find answers to all these questions.