Cerebral: Vastly Exceeding the Standard of Care?
And no, that is not praise. A hot take, in seven parts.
Part 1: ”There Have Been Concerning Reports”
Recently, a whole blizzard of reports has come out about the care provided by Cerebral. For the uninitiated, it is the high growth mental health startup. Cerebral raised a hell of a lot of money. This includes financing from Oak, as well as Softbank— of Uber and WeWork infamy.
My hot take? Even based on the most critical reading of what happened at Cerebral— and I’m only relying on already published information— they did a better job than most outpatient mental health care in the United States.
This is not to say Cerebral did a great job. It’s not to defend what happened at Cerebral. It’s not to attack what happened at Cerebral. I don’t actually know what happened at Cerebral.
I do know that, when examined in the context of what happens in outpatient mental health care, it doesn’t look good for the field, but doesn’t look particularly different at Cerebral.
For absolutely full disclosure, I know Dr. David Mou, the current CEO at Cerebral, personally though have no other connections to Cerebral or to its investors.
My wife went to residency with Dr. Mou and worked with him on the inpatient psychiatric ward when he was in medical school. I think it’s important to try to get medical care for psychiatric illness to people who desperately need it. I also think it’s important to do it well. So this is going to be some armchair quarterbacking, but I’m going to try to be fair.
Just before Softbank funded Cerebral, a close psychiatrist colleague interviewed for the position Dr.Mou went on to take, Chief Medical Officer. The only thing I will say about this particular interview, is that she asked one really important question about controlled substance prescribing. It led to her stepping away from the interview process before any non-disclosure agreement was signed: “What are you going to do if the Ryan-Haight Act gets reinstated?”
The Ryan Haight act forbids the prescribing of controlled substances to patients you haven’t ever met in person.
The answer from both the Chief Operating Officer and Kyle Robertson, the slightly-older-than-teenager who was the CEO at the time was the same in independent interviews: “We hope it doesn’t!”
This was not, in case you missed the point, a satisfactory answer.