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Bringing A Fresh Perspective To Mental Health

July 20, 2022


By: Leila Ghaznavi

Meet Nirvana’s Head of Product, Mike Komadina.

Originally from the San Francisco Bay area, Mike’s background in computer science, high tech and healthcare has given him unique insights into the mental health care industry. Before coming to Nirvana, Mike worked at Lyra, a large behavioral and mental health network of therapists, psychiatrists and coaches. At Lyra, he worked on content related to telehealth and patient education to help people dealing with anxiety, depression, stress, and relationship issues. He worked specifically on facilitating communications between leading insurers, therapists, and clients. 

We had the pleasure of speaking with Mike recently about his career path and how his prior experiences are informing his work at Nirvana.

What inspired you to choose mental health care as the focus of your professional career?

I worked for a number of years both in and out of healthcare. What drew me to focus on mental health care was having several close and extended family members who had to deal with challenges in the mental or behavioral health space. My father had dementia and Parkinson's and went through some of the more severe stages of cognitive decline in his later years. I learned first-hand how hard a journey it can be for someone to get that critical first appointment or to match with the right therapist for a specific condition. And ultimately, to confirm if you have the right insurance to cover a loved one's care or to know the actual costs of that care. These are all things that weigh on you during a very vulnerable time.

Working in Silicon Valley, I saw the stress and burnout many of my colleagues were going through. I observed how mental health support was really lacking when compared to other types of health care services, and that there was a lot of stigma associated with mental health challenges in the industry. It was that combination of personal and professional observations that drew me to the field. I want to help people get the right care, with the right therapist, at the right time.

How does your prior work inform your work at Nirvana?

There’s a couple of dimensions to it. One is an appreciation that the journey between the client and therapist is not just a moment or a singular 45-minute session. It is an ongoing learning dynamic. My prior work helps me think holistically about the experience clients are going through in and out of session. The billing component of claims adds a lot of stress and uncertainty when someone is trying to get care. I am very appreciative that Nirvana is tackling that challenge and is working to bring transparency and clarity to the actual costs of care because those are the pillars that create the business of healthcare at its core. 

The other thing I learned from working with a large number of therapists, is that they want to focus on the client care aspect of having a practice. But a practice is also a business. They have to deal with billing, claims, and insurance in all of its complexities which takes time away from the care that they can provide. Before I came to Nirvana, I had been working with mostly mid to large employers. At Nirvana, I am able to also apply my skills to working with the average person who may be out-of-network and all of the billing challenges that can represent if they don’t have a premium insurance plan.

What is your primary responsibility at Nirvana?

As Head of Product at Nirvana, my goal is to work across the organization to make sure we deliver solutions for therapists and clients that engender trust, confidence and clarity. We want to work with our therapists and our partners to ensure we reduce as many points of confusion and friction as possible. 

Nirvana has a lot of talented billing specialists, engineers, and customer success professionals to help support our customers' needs. We are investing in technology and people to simplify insurance for clients and therapists. We are creating products to help therapy practices succeed by reducing their overhead and the distraction of handling out-of-network billing, so they can spend more time with clients. This means taking on the complexity of Superbills for therapy and out-of-network claims to make sure we provide a clear and easy-to-use service for both clients and therapists.

What do you want to accomplish while you’re at Nirvana?

A challenge for any company working in the mental health billing space is to not pass the messiness and complexity of the insurance business along to therapists and their clients. I'm not sure that we'll ever get to a point where someone is joyful to work with insurance, but we can reduce the concerns involved with the process by giving people a greater sense of control. 

Insurance can feel overwhelming for both clients and therapists. Another goal of mine is to make sure Nirvana is using language everyone can understand. Therapists don't typically have guidance on how to handle insurance, especially if they work with a small practice or are a solo practitioner. Even large practices see challenges around managing the scale and complexity of claims. They may have more horsepower but there's still a real challenge in being efficient when handling unexpected claim issues, out-of-network billing, and Superbills. 

Nirvana’s mission is to make the experience of dealing with insurance companies clear and simple. We’re a growing company and we're learning every day what's most effective in handling mental health care insurance claims. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a host of complex issues to resolve like the technical and financial problems of dealing with different health plans and payers. It's really a fascinating challenge and one that I’m proud to be helping to solve.