Tridiuum Trailblazers: A New Way Forward With Steven Schwartz, PhD

By Rachel Jenkins

Clinical research drives the progress of behavioral health treatment and service delivery, and Steven Schwartz, PhD, Tridiuum’s new Head of Clinical Science and Innovation, has found himself at the sweet spot where clinical research and technology come together. His diverse career in clinical psychology and human-centered design is inspiring a fresh vision in technology use and provider outreach.

We spoke with Steve remotely in his home in Michigan about how his early career helped to pioneer the digital health space, the importance of the “five P’s” in designing healthcare technology, and the latest news and developments from the Tridiuum research team.

TRIDIUUM: Tell us about your background in psychology and how that led to where you are today working in digital health and advancing the clinical application of the Tridiuum platform.

SCHWARTZ: I started my career as a clinical psychologist on a fairly traditional path running a clinic at the University of Michigan. I did a little research and training, but soon was dissatisfied with that lifestyle. Later I started a research office that focused on medical education and the pharmaceutical industry, and I eventually started working for HealthMedia, a company within the University of Michigan’s technology transfer office.

HealthMedia was a very early digital company that built highly personalized web-based intervention tools for patients. In those days, it was quite cutting edge. We were able to personalize messages delivered through the web that could help with patient treatment by using metaphors that were easier to understand. For example, if someone was a golfer, we might use golf as a metaphor for how to manage a chronic illness.

I then went off and did all kinds of things — there’s probably nothing in clinical psychology I haven’t done in some way, shape, or form. But that’s what really got me into the digital space. I’ve just been fascinated with designing experiences that are sticky and valuable to end users in that space and then testing to see if they work.

TRIDIUUM: You specialize in human-centered design. Talk about how that fits in healthcare.

SCHWARTZ: It’s complicated and something that fascinates me: How do man and machine interact in ways that work well together? That means everything from how the dashboard is laid out in your car to how a menu is presented at a restaurant. What does research tell us about how people interact with technology, from phones to smartwatches, in ways that either confuse them or help them?

In healthcare, I’ve worked with support programs surrounding medication adherence. For people with diseases like multiple sclerosis, for example, their medications can have side effects, so there are motivation and management issues with patients. Now we have asynchronous communication capabilities, like with digital medicine bottles, where we can actually track a patient’s adherence to a prescription. In mental health, we know that adherence to psychopharmacological medications is not usually where we want it to be, so these kinds of innovations, even beyond our current medication tracking capabilities, are likely next steps for Tridiuum.

TRIDIUUM: What makes a digital health company stand out in the industry?

SCHWARTZ: Tridiuum is aligned with the healthcare ecosystem’s movement toward innovation that advances the “five P’s.” What we mean by this is that healthcare should be:

  1. Personalized;
  2. Predictive;
  3. Precise;
  4. Preemptive; and
  5. Participatory.

For example, genomics uses a patient’s genes to predict how they may respond to a medication. That kind of measurement-based, precision medicine has been spreading across the industry and making its way to the behavioral health space. Tridiuum is poised to be at the very, very top of that game.

COVID has also changed opinions about the value of digital health. It went from kind of cool and curious to, ‘man, we’ve got to get this figured out, because COVID isn’t going away.’ And patients are seeing that it’s really convenient. They don’t have to put a coat on and go out in the cold. They don’t have to fight for parking and wait in a waiting room with other sick people.

In addition, there’s social change, uncertainty, and our political climate. It’s all making people very anxious. So Tridiuum’s measurement-based behavioral health platform isn’t just about enabling a new channel for treatment, it’s about real human suffering and helping people receive timely, appropriate care in an uncertain world.

TRIDIUUM: Much of your job is applying the latest research to the Tridiuum platform and to industry outreach. How do you go about that?

SCHWARTZ: In terms of customer success, we’re going to be even more closely aligning our skillset in research with what the customers need to deliver effective, efficient, measurement-based care. Another is thought leadership strategy. We can continue to focus our outreach by highlighting not only how we created this product, but how we have demonstrated that it works in clinical practice. The last is building out a set of professional services. Imagine a living laboratory where we pilot innovations in a real-world environment and do usability testing with practitioners to establish best practices with our capabilities in the market.

TRIDIUUM: In what ways are providers and payers reporting effectiveness in patient outcomes using digital channels like Tridiuum?

SCHWARTZ: There is a wide variation in the ways that providers use digital tools. One prime example is that the healthcare industry is moving toward value-based contracts, which are based on patients’ clinical circumstances. This means that data, tracking, and outcomes have become increasingly relevant in determining the quality and cost of care.

TRIDIUUM: What are some of the broad healthcare trends that you’re keeping an eye on?

SCHWARTZ: I think Tridiuum is spot on with our measurement-based care approach. That’s going to get more and more refined in the behavioral health space. I’m also interested in watching the shift based on the fact that medicine has historically operated from one position, which is that all humans are alike. We all have DNA, we have the same development patterns, we suffer from the same illnesses, aging processes, etc. But everybody varies around those things, and now we can take individual differences into account. With our measurement-based care approach, we’re well positioned to help care teams bring technology and clinical service together. The technology itself is making what was once theoretically possible, practical.

TRIDIUUM: What drew you to Tridiuum?

SCHWARTZ: What initially drew me to Tridiuum was its product line and positioning and that it had a good customer base. Tridiuum reminds me of some of the most rewarding parts of my career because you have this interdisciplinary group of people — web designers, public health people, copywriters, behavioral scientists, and clinicians — all coming together to create this comprehensive, measurement-based, efficient tele-behavioral health platform. There’s a lot of camaraderie and rallying around that central theme of doing good, and the company culture is fun, open, innovative, and hardworking. It seemed like a very natural fit for me.

TRIDIUUM: Tridiuum’s research team recently met and decided to refocus their efforts under a new name: the Clinical Science and Innovation Team (CSI). What was the reasoning behind this name change, and how do you think this will better reflect the team’s work?

SCHWARTZ: The name change was meant to recast how the team is used within the company. Using “CSI” was the brainchild of Laura Dietzen, Manager of Behavioral Health Analytics. It fits because we examine data — the “evidence” — and try to solve puzzles on behalf of our clients.

TRIDIUUM: Where are you located and what do you like to do in your spare time?

SCHWARTZ: I live in Plymouth, Michigan, between Ann Arbor and Detroit. I like to say it’s sort of a sophisticated Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show. It’s got a very small-town feel, but it has nice restaurants and some cool shops.

I have a passion for fishing and a lot of water-related activities. My wife and I kayak, and I love to garden. I have two daughters who live in Chicago and a son who lives nearby. My daughter and my grandson live here in the house so it’s been a real blessing to have family here with me while I work from home.