May 24, 2021

Hacking Into Your Inner State with Digital Therapeutics and Psychedelic Therapy

Humans are notoriously amazing at self-distortion. We don’t accurately recognize our internal states and many of us are terribly disconnected from the body’s cues. Technology offers a tremendous resource- true insight into our body and brain via sleep monitoring, heart rate variability and other indicators of inner state. How do we use this data well? How do centralized repositories of data move healing forward? What are the dangers of crowdsourcing therapeutic processes?

Hacking Into Your Inner State with Digital Therapeutics and Psychedelic Therapy

Sherry Walling - 0:00:00
Humans are notoriously amazing at self-distortion. We're not always very good at correctly evaluating and then reporting on ourselves. We don't accurately recognize our internal states and many of us are kind of disconnected from the body's cues. As a mental health professional, I often experience the disconnect and I ask people simple things like, "Hey, how are you doing? How are you feeling?

Sherry Walling - 0:00:22
How was your sleep?" But this internal data, mood, sleep, heart rate: those are the metrics by which we assess the outcome of or the need for different mental health interventions. One such intervention is psychedelic therapy. As we begin to explore how psychedelics can change the way that mental health and other health care services are provided, we come back to the problem of data. How do we know that this new class of treatments is working? How do we measure our own healing?

Sherry Walling - 0:00:55
How do we know which interventions are called for? Today, we're diving into an explanation of how technology can help us answer some of these questions in the form of digital therapeutics. It's hard to define precisely, but digital therapeutics leverage software and personal data to create treatment and healing plans. So in my conversations today, I'm talking about how digital therapeutics can provide both clinicians and clients with real-time accurate data that answer the question, "How are you?" Welcome to MIND CURIOUS, a podcast for those looking to explore the healing potential of psychedelic compounds. In this show, we'll dive deep and test our understanding of what consciousness is while talking to experts in the fields who are no strangers to tapping into the curiosity of the mind.

Sherry Walling - 0:01:40
I'm your host, Dr. Sherry Walling. Let's dive in.

I want to add one quick common sense reminder. This podcast does not constitute medical advice. The perspectives of the guests are theirs alone and they don't represent me, my opinions, or those of Mind Cure Health, our sponsoring organization.

Sherry Walling - 0:02:09
My first guest is Geoff Belair. He's the chief technology officer of Mind Cure Health. Now, this term gets thrown around a lot, but believe me when I say that Geoff is a professional disruptor. He spent over 30 years in the fintech industry as an architect, building banking systems that replaced huge mainframe computers with comparatively tiny PCs. It was a massive shift at that time and really shook up the finance world.

Sherry Walling - 0:02:35
But Geoff was drawn to the digital therapeutics and psychedelic research space because he saw another opportunity for disruption. His team at MINDCURE is working on a digital therapeutic platform called iSTRYM. iSTRYM aims to give therapists the data and the tools to really evaluate the care of their patients at every stage of an intervention, whether or not it uses psychedelics. iSTRYM incorporates modern technologies including wearable biometric monitoring devices, commonly just called wearables; natural language processing and machine learning; and more. Now, if this is getting a bit too jargony, I understand. We're going to start from the beginning.

Sherry Walling - 0:03:18
The piece that you're working on within this conversation falls under the umbrella of digital therapeutics. How do you define that term? What does that mean to you?

Geoff Belair - 0:03:30
Yeah, it's interesting because I probably researched this at least once or twice a week because I'm wanting to always see what the landscape looks like and and when you look that word up or look at those two words up, you'll always find, every week it seems to me, a new definition of that. So it itself is a changing landscape, but to me, this category of health care is a set of technologies that are based on cognitive behavioral therapy. So that's the core to it. What I mean by that is it's designed to assist clients in making a lifestyle change. So you can think of somebody that maybe is suffering from depression and they don't want to suffer from depression anymore.

Geoff Belair - 0:04:04
So there's a journey for them that can be orchestrated through a professional, and the idea is to move them along that spectrum from this current state that they're in, into a better state, that's probably the best way to describe it. And so if whatever technology you're bringing to bear does that, then in my opinion you have something that I would call digital therapeutics. So that's the way I describe it because there's a lot of other things that come into play around that. Lots of bells and whistles and things that people are looking in working on outside that, but that's core to me like if you're not building a technology that helps move somebody from one state of mind to another, I don't know, I think it might fall into a different category then.

Sherry Walling - 0:04:55
Then it's not therapeutic, right? It's just technology.

Geoff Belair - 0:04:59
Yeah, exactly. It's just a medical record system or something of that nature.

Sherry Walling - 0:05:03

Geoff Belair - 0:05:03
Yeah, exactly.

Sherry Walling - 0:05:04
So, the technology that you all are working on is, do you say iSTRYM?

Geoff Belair - 0:05:09
It's iSTRYM. So it's a small "i" and all the rest are capitals, S-T-R-Y-M.

Sherry Walling - 0:05:14
Tell me about it, or what are the things you're thinking about as you put it together and I realize it's not complete yet, but you're in the planning, building, architecting process.

Geoff Belair - 0:05:23
Yeah. We're in the planning, building, interviewing, getting feedback from all the subject matter experts out there. So the way I like to describe iSTRYM is, it's about asking the question, "How can we help?" and there are three types of consumers for iSTRYM in our minds. There's the practitioner or the professional; there's the client who may be working with that practitioner, sometimes we refer to them as the health optimizer; and then down the road, we see being able to help researchers in their quest to find new novel molecules and provide research into the psychedelic arena and help move that forward. So when you look at iSTRYM, yes, in my opinion, it's a digital therapeutics platform. It's a set of technologies operating as a service. In my world, we call that SAAS. It's an acronym, S-A-A-S for software as a service, and it's serving as a tool for psychotherapy to clients.

Geoff Belair - 0:06:15
The idea behind it is, over time, we're going to build up one of the largest repositories of psychedelic experiences so that we can arm practitioners with an understanding of what's the best medical protocol for their clients. So this is a great insight for them that they might normally not have in that traditional sense that we were talking about earlier.

Sherry Walling - 0:06:40
And so this allows for therapists, health professionals, medicine keepers to have this bit of data or information about how their patient is faring, both in response to medicine and in the time between sessions, maybe between a medicine session and a follow-up integration session.

Geoff Belair - 0:06:57
Yeah. Maybe I can just speak to that a little bit because I think it's kind of important. So you know you go through an assessment with a potential client. If that is successful and you feel that you have a particular psychedelic or medical protocol that you will think will help somebody. So somebody might have PTSD and so MDMA might be a likely candidate. Then what they often have is this sort of a purge process that happens maybe a week or two before your first session.

Geoff Belair - 0:07:17
iSTRYM can play a part of that as well because we can give the person a wearable device and this allows us to create a baseline of what we call biometric information and it can also be psychometric information before the actual medical protocol is applied in a certain session.

Sherry Walling - 0:07:43
So you might go into that session knowing a lot of data about how well they've slept?

Geoff Belair - 0:07:49

Sherry Walling - 0:07:49
You might have some self-report, kind of mood information.

Geoff Belair - 0:07:53

Sherry Walling - 0:07:53
Maybe some heart rate information. So you're walking in armed with more data than self-report can give us.

Geoff Belair - 0:08:02
Exactly and so during the session, we can gather a bunch of information with the consent of the client, of course. That's very important. We can record the session and then iSTRYM has the ability to analyze that recording and provide feedback to the clinician to give them insights that they might not have caught during the session during their discussion with the client or not, simply because they've been focused on the client through the session to make sure that their journey is the exact journey in practicing of their art, the way they wanted it to be, right? So in the background, iSTRYM Is doing all of this, sort of like a helper, collecting this information that the clinician can then review later and get some additional insights.

Sherry Walling - 0:08:48
So, for example, could you say something like, "Oh, this theme came up a lot for this person as they were talking through their experience." That theme that they were discussing was accompanied by this physiological reaction. So every time they talked about, you know, a certain kind of tree that they remembered as a child. Maybe they're having a physiological reaction, so we really want to dial in and pay attention to that as a key component of their healing process.

Geoff Belair - 0:09:15
Yeah. That's where the art of the practitioner comes into play because they know, they know what to look for. They are guiding through that and iSTRYM in the background is doing its thing, monitoring biometric information. So if that journey gets into a good space for what they're trying to achieve, but it might be a tense moment, it can record heart rate and oxygen levels and other things that are new information that the practitioner might normally not get. iSTRYM is giving them some feedback that they can look on a tablet or whatever is convenient for them and view that additional information and just empower the practitioner to be more mindful of the state of their client.

Sherry Walling - 0:09:55
That's one of the things that I'm really excited about as a practitioner, to begin to utilize some of these techniques and tools eventually someday because self-report is wonderful but is also notoriously inaccurate. So I might ask my client, "Hey, how was your sleep for the last couple weeks since I've seen you?" And they're going to remember like last night, maybe the night before, but to see that true data sort of unfold over 2 weeks is really, really extraordinarily valuable because I'm getting much more accurate information, and especially in the context of trauma work or PTSD work where we really are trying to take really good care of a body that's under stress as much as we're trying to listen to words and care for emotions. I feel like this really equips a practitioner in ways that, you know, we haven't been able to access before maybe outside of large university settings or hospitals where we have access to biometric measuring tools.

Geoff Belair - 0:10:59
Yeah, exactly. We often refer to it as the integration process. So post the medical protocol, there's an integration protocol and so post leaving the office of the practitioner and going home back into their environment, whatever that might be. What happens now? So by having iSTRYM still there for them, it helps the client go through the integration process, which they might have agreed with the practitioner and that could be some type of meditation that they agree to do. It could be music therapy.

Geoff Belair - 0:11:29
It could be all sorts of things that are available that suits that client best. And as they do those things, they can get gentle reminders from iSTRYM on their smartphone device. Have you done your meditation today for instance? Or you might say, "I don't really feel like meditation," so you choose something else. And all this gets tracked by the digital therapeutic platform, iSTRYM, and is recorded back and presented with, again, it's important to note that all of this stuff that gets recorded is by the client's permission so they always have the option of opting out and opting in to this collection of data because we want to build trust, so it's important for them to know that they might not want to share that.

Geoff Belair - 0:12:08
But if they choose, they can even journal and say, "I'm not feeling great today." And the beauty of that is, as you noted, they go in, it might not be two or three weeks before they see their professional again, and during that time, if they didn't have iSTRYM and they come back and the clinician says, "So, you know, how did you feel last Tuesday at 10:00 o'clock?"

Sherry Walling - 0:12:37
I have no idea.

Geoff Belair - 0:12:39
"I have no idea. I don't even know if I was sleeping or not." So the beauty of that is that iSTRYM presents this dashboard of information that, yeah, the clinician may still ask those questions when they next meet the client, but they have a wealth of information, what I like to call actionable data in front of them on the dashboard.

Sherry Walling - 0:13:01
iSTRYM has so many exciting clinical implications. Importantly, the data it collects and analyzes can be reviewed by clients at any time from a customized dashboard. But the AI won't make treatment suggestions based on the data directly to the patient. Instead, it only presents those suggestions to the therapist. That's because Geoff and his team are trying to ensure that the data they're collecting is being used responsibly. We will come back to that in a little bit.

Sherry Walling - 0:13:19
First, I want to talk about another organization that is using biometric data and wearable technology to shift the paradigm in mental health care. My second guest is Erik Kerr, founder and CEO of LifeTraq. LifeTraq is an innovative organization that uses a Finnish sleep and activity tracker called the Oura ring to predict the outcome in addiction and rehabilitation. Erik has some fascinating thoughts about the nature of all of this new biometric data collection and analysis and some deeply personal reasons for getting involved in this field. We have access to all of this data now, or at least access to the ability to collect all of this data about our own bodies and our own rhythms.

Sherry Walling - 0:14:09
But there are very few ways to interpret that or use it in meaningful ways. So the ability of making our own data accessible to us and meaningful to us as humans seems extraordinarily important and kind of like the anti-Facebook clique.

Erik Kerr - 0:14:33
Yeah. It's really interesting because it's something that we've always done, but this is new information and new data that we don't really know what to do with it. But if we stopped and just kind of slowed down and said, "What historically have we been able to do with good data, and how have we used that data to improve lives and outcomes if you look at just diabetes as an example?" I have a son who's type 1 diabetic. He's 18 now. He was diagnosed when he was 16. And now he, you know, takes his blood sugar every day.

Erik Kerr - 0:15:10
He's got a monitor thing on his arm that tells when his blood sugar is high or low and that's all data. And he knows how to self-regulate. Whereas 50 years ago, we didn't have that and people were often managing from a crisis state. That changes the inquiry, right? So, if we fundamentally ask, "What do we have access to now in terms of data that we didn't have before and what can we do with that data to improve the outcomes?" And so then it gets down to what outcomes are you trying to improve?

Erik Kerr - 0:15:41
What we were trying to find out with our study with the Oura ring and addiction relapse is, can we specifically use the Oura ring as a piece of technology to predict that relapse is coming?

Sherry Walling - 0:15:57
So just to back up a tiny bit because my mother listens to my podcasts. I'm pretty sure she doesn't know what an Oura ring is. Mom, it's a little thing that you put on your finger that tracks all of this information about your body. And I'm sure, Erik, you have a much more nuanced explanation of that but...

Erik Kerr - 0:16:15
Yeah. Well, it tracks sleep, and more specifically, it tracks your autonomic nervous system, which has to do with your heart rate variability. Basically questioning whether you're in a fight or flight state or arrest and digest state, right? So when you're in a fight or flight state, you have to ask, "Why am I in this state?" So it gives you the data to begin the inquiry.

Sherry Walling - 0:16:41
I was going to say one of the things that I know through my work is that, sometimes we as humans are actually quite slow or it's quite difficult for us to be able to observe our own inner states and kind of assess them correctly, and so the tools that you're exploring or the Oura ring, in particular, is an objective external way to give us data about our own situation, our own body, our own mind in a moment, and then think about what to do based on how we are. And so this project that you've been working on, that I think is just fantastically exciting, is looking at that kind of biometric data or physiological data as predictor of addiction relapse.

Erik Kerr - 0:17:32
Yeah, that's a really good way of stating it, Sherry. The reason I started down this path, as you and I met probably 3, maybe 4 years ago, there was a time when my dad and I and my sister, who is a 30-year registered nurse, ICU certified, surgically certified, just kind of seen everything. We were playing cards and he was 89 at the time and I think we're playing rummy or wars, something like that, and she started playing a game with my dad, asking him to change cards to the other hand and then doing all these weird things and so we were just kind of playing along with it and then like right out of the blue she said, "Dad, I'm calling 911 'cause you're having a stroke." And so she was able to essentially predict, that a stroke was happening and it was going to get worse and he was likely going to die unless we intervened at the time. I had no idea it was happening and more importantly into your point, he had no idea it was happening, right?

Erik Kerr - 0:18:32
And so that started me on an inquiry with experts saying, can we use, because obviously, there are things that are happening with the nervous system and with the brain that are manifesting physically through our physical actions, but those things started firing off way before they started manifesting, maybe several days before even he started having a stroke. The value is in its predictive quality, right? And so we want to look forward to subtle changes in your body that can't be detected by your senses alone and so this can be good forewarning of impending problems, future protocols, nutrition plans, and stuff, and so forth like that. And it doesn't always have to be such crisis state, like I'm going for the big wins.

Sherry Walling - 0:19:20
We're going for the big hairy problems that we haven't been able to really make a lot of traction on.

Erik Kerr - 0:19:26
Yeah, which I'm saying, like, "Oh, this will be easy," because it's so obvious, but it's such a nightmare because you've got so many businesses that are built around the current problem that they just don't want to move, right? It was like the opioid crisis. Like addiction to opioids, that's not happening.

Sherry Walling - 0:19:44
Right. That's not a problem.

Erik Kerr - 0:19:45
Yeah, it's not a problem, says the pharmaceutical company, says the doctors who are prescribing, who are getting, you know, paid. So we're starting with very, very tiny case studies. If you look at people who are suffering from addiction in prison, like if 10% of the people who suffered from addiction in prison were treated for that addiction prior to them leaving and were supported throughout, that would save, gosh, what is it? $4.8 billion a year.

Sherry Walling - 0:20:15
Wow, just 10%.

Erik Kerr - 0:20:16
Yeah, just 10% If you move that up to 40%, it would save $12.9 billion annually.

Sherry Walling - 0:20:23

Erik Kerr - 0:20:24
So if you just say, "What do I as a person," and anybody listening, "what do I as a person have access to?" You know, you've got access to quite a bit. It doesn't have to be an Oura ring, It can be, you know, Fitbit. I mean, there's all kinds of wearables out there right now. What you have to ask yourself and where probably people need some help is, "What should I track and what does it mean when I see this data and how do I correlate it to see improvements in my own functional state?"

Sherry Walling - 0:21:01
So would you talk a little bit about this study that your team did, it's a pilot study. I know it's small scale, but I think it's really interesting. The study is specifically about people who were participating in what began as an inpatient treatment and then moves to an outpatient treatment for addiction. I think the center that you partnered with, is it in Arizona?

Erik Kerr - 0:21:23
Yeah. The Sanctuary.

Sherry Walling - 0:21:25

Erik Kerr - 0:21:25
So, fundamentally, addiction treatment and even the healthcare system, the correction system, they're all kind of fundamentally built the same way, is that it's highly transactional. So in recovery in addiction, somebody would go to a detox center and get them clean, right? So basically drugs are out of your system, now we're going to take you to a recovery center where you can learn or just we make sure that you're not falling off the bus. Those are fundamentally two totally separate organizations. They don't share typically any kind of data and one may be a state-run facility and then another one may be a private facility. But in most cases, you're going in, you're getting clean, and the rate of relapse is about 90%.

Erik Kerr - 0:22:05
Most of these people who suffer from addiction will go through several treatment centers because clean is not healed, right?

Sherry Walling - 0:22:19
Clean is just chemicals out of your system.

Erik Kerr - 0:22:22
Yeah. Chemicals are out of your system, but your brain is still driving for that hit, right? And when you go home, you've got all the brain-trained responses when you see your buddy, when you smell something, and it's all based really fundamentally on our senses where the amygdala will just drive and give you dopamine hits that will drive towards the addictive habit, right? So we know now based on science that dopamine, which is the pleasure chemical, is used by the brain to lead you to the addictive behavior, right? But it doesn't give you a dopamine hit when you do the addictive behavior; it's leading you along the way so it takes the horse to water.

Sherry Walling - 0:23:08
It's the hope that the addictive behavior will feel a certain way, not necessarily the addictive behavior itself.

Erik Kerr - 0:23:15
Yeah, exactly. So what we did was we talked with The Sanctuary, which is a phenomenal treatment center, but they recognize kind of the gap in the system. Because we would have, let's say, 30 or 40 people come through their 30-day program and then they would ask maybe a week or two weeks after how are things going? They had maybe a 1% reply to that email.

Sherry Walling - 0:23:39
Wow. So people aren't engaged enough.

Erik Kerr - 0:23:42
Totally not engaged. So when we started distributing the Oura rings on day 1, so we worked together and we changed the model from a 30-day program to a 90-day program. So it changed the model from 30 days treatment in facility where you come in, we get you detoxed. We teach you nutrition programming. We teach you meditation. We help you re-establish community.

Erik Kerr - 0:24:02
If you've got anything else going on, then we try to address those as well. But then we're going to follow you home, too, and we're going to support you 60 days because most people will relapse. When they relapse, they will relapse in the first 60 days, so we said, that's really our crisis window after they leave here. And so just having the Oura ring where the participants could see their steps as a basic measurement tool, increase the collaboration in the community with the participants themselves, right? So they were saying, "How many did you get?" "I got this many." "What was your sleep like last night?" "It said, mine sucked." "Well, mine sucked, too." "Okay, well, we both, you know, like our sleep sucks, so we've got that in common now." Right?

Sherry Walling - 0:24:50
Yeah. We don't even have to use any emotion languages, but we're sharing something kind of significant about ourselves by sharing these numbers.

Erik Kerr - 0:24:57
Yeah, which wasn't happening before and so then, as we start to look at, all right, this is why your sleep is bad because initially, they would say, "Well, it's telling me my sleep is bad and I already knew my sleep is bad, so this thing is terrible." Well, you have to reframe kind of the purpose of the data and even treatment centers, I've heard some friends talked to treatment centers. They were like, "Well, by the times it tells us that somebody is in relapse, it's too late." True, right? By the time 911 is called because somebody is off the ditch and they're in a rollover, the rollover has already happened.

Erik Kerr - 0:25:34
That's obvious data, right? But the question that we have to ask is what happened an hour or two before somebody rolled over off in the ditch. Maybe they were drinking, maybe they were sleepy, maybe whatever, right? There's a whole bunch of data that we need to find out, and historically we know.

Sherry Walling - 0:25:53
The domino's had to be arranged in a certain way before the rollover in the ditch.

Erik Kerr - 0:25:57
Yeah. And so now just from the basic data and my chief science officer, because I'll ask her also, "What do we know?" And she goes, "We don't know anything until we analyze the data." But what we can fundamentally say about the data is level of participation has gone up. We know that half the people who leave the treatment center will go into relapse, but we're also surveying them so they're not just wearing the ring. We're asking them very simple questions that they can answer through their cell phone on a daily basis. How would you rate your sleep?

Erik Kerr - 0:26:27
How would you rate your cravings? Right? And just super, like, scale of 1 to 10. So now we can take that data and correlate it to the heart rate variability in the anxiety states and sleeping patterns and we can start to learn. Okay. Well, if it wasn't very good, are you sticking to your nutrition program?

Erik Kerr - 0:26:44
Are you doing your meditation? All that stuff. So we have, in the first couple of weeks, we've got 100% participation. So if you take the before scenario where we would -- they didn't even get them to answer an email.

Sherry Walling - 0:26:59
Only 1% would respond to the email, yeah.

Erik Kerr - 0:27:01
Right. We've got everybody for the whole 30 days that they're in there responding to three or four surveys a day, and they're doing the same thing when they leave. At least half of them are following through all the way to the end. So look at all that data we have now, right? And look at the level of participation and engagement, because if somebody knows that, "Okay, they're gonna ask me tomorrow how I'm doing again," like that anticipation for tomorrow will increase compliance and self-control by a lot.

Sherry Walling - 0:27:34
Addiction, rehabilitation, and relapse are not the only areas of focus in LifeTraq's research. They're also studying suicide prevention and prison reform with predictive data modeling. Now, if you're a mental health professional like myself, you might get concerned when you realize that digital therapeutics could almost automate the treatment process. And what about the security of this personal data? What happens if it falls into the wrong hands? It's important for the creators of these technologies to think about the implications and potential pitfalls of the digital therapeutics movement.

Sherry Walling - 0:28:05
Fortunately, the team at MINDCURE has considered these questions. So I think I have to ask selfishly, is this brilliant product, this disruptive product that you're building, is this going to put me out of a job?

Geoff Belair - 0:28:25
Yeah. Sorry, Sherry, it is.

Sherry Walling - 0:28:26
There's an app for that, so that we don't need mental health professionals anymore. We have this app.

Geoff Belair - 0:28:31
Yeah. My short answer is, sorry. Yes, it is. You know I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding. No, not at all. As a matter of fact, my personal opinion is that the human-to-human interaction is so critical in this and iSTRYM is really just a tool in the health professional and the clients' toolbelt. It helps guide them along when they're not quite sure.

Geoff Belair - 0:28:47
So practitioner may be looking at this dashboard that I spoke of and getting some insights from how the protocol is working. What's the efficacy of the protocol and the client might be doing the same with their own lifestyle choices that they're making and getting some feedback and efficacy of those lifestyle changes that they're making, right? So that's always partnered with people. It's important that the human-to-human interaction continues throughout this process. So, no, you're not out of a job.

Sherry Walling - 0:29:20
Okay. Good. Phew. I better go learn to code or something.

Geoff Belair - 0:29:25
Yeah, there you go. There you go.

Sherry Walling - 0:29:28
I do often feel in the context of my work, like, I wish I could just be a little birdie on someone's shoulder throughout the week. Like whispering little reminders in their ear in a non-creepy, helpful way.

Geoff Belair - 0:29:43

Sherry Walling - 0:29:43
But that sense of this continuity between in-person conversations so that there's this touchpoint or this sense of follow-through that therapy, even its traditional sense, we meet with someone once a week on Tuesday at 3, and we do that for a period of time and it's predictable and consistent, but a lot happens between Tuesdays, right? A lot transpires in people's lives, so this sense, I think, even as a -- that this software tool can be a human ambassador from, you know, one therapeutic experience to another is potentially really exciting.

Geoff Belair - 0:30:20
Yeah, that's exactly true. You've said it very well.

Sherry Walling - 0:30:24
So are there -- what are the downfalls here? What are the things you're protecting against? Whether it's security, privacy, data being misused, it sounds great, but tell me about the things that people should be informed about or cautious about.

Geoff Belair - 0:30:37
That's a great question and it's one that probably could be a whole podcast on its own, but you know, I might be a bit philosophical here. In the technology side of things, technology industry, they always talk about, anything can be, "against me." (inaudible) Anything can be weaponized and so the analogy that I often use is, so I own a store, a sports store, and I sell baseball bats and so somebody comes and buys a baseball bat and they go and use it, I assume, to play baseball, but they could just as easily use that to break into cars, I guess, you know, as an alternative. So I guess the important part there is, it's not necessarily about the technology, but it's the people behind the technology. At MINDCURE, for instance, and one of the reasons I was drawn to come to MINDCURE is, we ask ourselves these kinds of questions every day and we hold ourselves to an extremely high standard of how do we make sure that iSTRYM is that positive solution that moves forward in the world and that, you know, we look at the ethical parts of it consistently. And we have team meetings around that about what makes sense here and I can give you some examples.

Geoff Belair - 0:31:45
For instance, I've already spoken to this a little bit. But this is the idea, what I like to call guiding principles, so, for instance, the client will always own the data. That's a guiding principle. They can choose that opt-out at any time they can choose to say, "I don't want you to have my data anymore," and that's their choice. We have to respect that completely.

Geoff Belair - 0:32:07
Otherwise, we won't have the trust of them to use the product, to work with the therapists using the product, and to have the outcomes that we think they can have. We will be introducing AI, artificial intelligence, and I don't know if you read a lot about what's happening in the world of AI, but there's been both positive and negative press around it. So there's a guiding principle that we have is AI will be used, but it will never present its outcomes directly to a client. It will present them along with the psychometric and biometrical data to the clinician for review before working with the client to make a decision moving forward. So it can probably provide some great insights, but it's not the one making the decision and that is just the guiding principle within MINDCURE that we're going to always follow through, so it's a couple of examples. Around all that, of course, we're going to make sure that we secure the environment and again, like I said, I could probably speak at long length as to how we're going about that.

Geoff Belair - 0:33:05
It's well beyond the minimum requirements that something like HIPAA requires, and we will just ensure that that's in place and it has to be in place.

Sherry Walling - 0:33:17
So there's lots of big high-level thinking as well as concrete details that are going into how you're considering how to use this well.

Geoff Belair - 0:33:28

Sherry Walling - 0:33:28
Would you use it?

Geoff Belair - 0:33:29
Absolutely. I plan to use it.

Sherry Walling - 0:33:32
You're like, sign me up!

Geoff Belair - 0:33:34
I'm gonna be the first one to download it as soon as it's available. Yes, correct.

Sherry Walling - 0:33:38
And I guess I'm curious, big picture, if this disruption works. I mean the way that we provide mental health care, maybe mental health care via psychedelics, what does the system look like on the other side?

Geoff Belair - 0:33:53
Yeah. I think it just creates a great opportunity especially from the psychedelic arena, because it's a small community of people, again respecting the trailblazers before us that have produced this art form and brought it forward and now moving it into science-backed, evidence-based solutions that governments of the world just can't deny, and it allows psychedelics and the efficacy of their protocols to come into the mainstream. So a product like iSTRYM, I hope, advances that and brings that forward so that more people can be helped by what psychedelics can offer with their mental health and also provide scale because, right now, a practitioner using a traditional model may only be able to serve, I'm guessing here, maybe 5 to 10 clients at a time. Well, with a product like iSTRYM working with them side by side as their assistant, if you will, why couldn't they be serving dozens more simultaneously? Because the system is giving them the feedback and information that they need. So now we've provided scale.

Geoff Belair - 0:35:04
We can now get out into the world and reach a larger and broader audience of people who need help, and Lord knows, with COVID right now, there is a lot of people like that, right? So that is fascinating to me that we could potentially set the stage for that.

Sherry Walling - 0:35:23
You're in such an interesting spot given the marrying of science, technology, and traditional practice, which in some ways has traditional, artistic, spiritual, religious connotations. And so I appreciate the dance that you're doing as a technologist to really honor the wisdom of the tradition and the medicine keepers, but also really want to bring these traditions into the realm of science so that they can be widely accepted and have optimal benefit for a world that is certainly in need of different solutions.

Geoff Belair - 0:36:02
Very well said. That's exactly how I feel. Yeah.

Sherry Walling - 0:36:04
Well, I'm so grateful for your time. Thank you for chatting with me. When will we be able to see iSTRYM in real life?

Geoff Belair - 0:36:13
You'll start to see and hear more about it as we move into the second quarter here. So some think about the July timeframe.

Sherry Walling - 0:36:23
Okay. So, summer?

Geoff Belair - 0:36:25
Yeah. Summertime would be a great time and let's keep in touch, more to come, watch our website, all that good stuff, right?

Sherry Walling - 0:36:31
All right, fantastic. And we'll have all that information in the show notes for people who are listening who want to follow the work that Geoff and his team are doing and to keep in touch with all things MINDCURE.

Geoff Belair - 0:36:42
Thanks for having me on the show.

Sherry Walling - 0:36:45
You're going to hear me talk about the historical tradition of psychedelics as a tool for healing over and over again. And as psychedelic psychotherapy enters the Western medical world, it will inevitably be met by technological and social disruption. I'm so glad that the people who are exploring the digital therapeutic space are guided by curiosity and a desire to be of service. Again, I want to thank both of my guests, Geoff Belair and Erik Kerr, for all of their incredible and necessary work and for taking the time to speak with me today. We'll have links to their work in the show notes. To learn more about all that Mind Cure Health is doing, follow along the journey on social media or by visiting

Sherry Walling - 0:37:26
Thanks so much for listening.

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