Talking to Users & Prioritizing The Mental Health Problem

Jacqueline Chan
5 min readJun 9, 2022


Lately, I have realized that every fibre of my being resists talking to users. The real problem is of course psychological — and VCs who provide good advice know that.

Writing, and rewriting for the sake of getting clarity

I started having to write because obviously, content is a tried and true strategy to establish authority in an industry. Having an opinion in the industry, in my case, healthcare, because you’re (whether you like it or not) a necessary participant in it. Perhaps even more important for entrepreneurs who do not traditionally have a background in that particular field. For entrepreneurs, even writing about the experience can be quite illuminating and liberating because advice can often be difficult to implement; not to mention conflicting at times. It’s the new habit creation part that’s difficult. Besides, are there really enough affordable psychiatrists who specialize in counselling entrepreneurs? There are quite a few threads on YC where entrepreneurs and people working with startups explained their own mental health issues. (Caused by over-work, most likely) Where are the use cases specifically for entrepreneurship burnout?

Where are the use cases specifically for entrepreneurship burnout?

Research, Self-Belief and the Hit the Ground Testing

Part of me believes that I already know what the problem is. (Hey — I do extremely in-depth secondary research that helps me piece together a comprehensive understanding of the problem). Using averages provided by ample research, I can make calculations on how much my product could be 1. Saving the number of hours wasted for the doctor, and 2. Potential revenue if they use those hours to get new clients instead. If you’re wondering, the purpose of these user interviews is to collect factual and quantifiable metrics about the problem the user has so that you can derive and quantify the value you can create and capture for the end-user.

Money, money after all

Our capitalistic frameworks would like you to believe that any solution you create value for will have a quantifiable money metric associated with it. And that’s important because who would like to be told that they’ve been wasting time, money, and emotional turmoil on an issue that can be fixed. Good enough. Can longer-term benefits and value be easily quantified?

Focus and Factual Problem Indicators

You might be focused on a particular problem that you solve for the customer, and yet they have other problems that are much more frequent than take up their attention. Previously, I wanted to solve the referral management problem which is a direct result of clinics not using interoperable (meaning: incompatible) electronic medical record systems resulting in family doctors using fax referrals and phone calls when making a medical specialist referral. Compare that time spent, 180 hours per year, with the number of hours family doctors spent on documenting patient records on EHRs, 1200 per year (these estimates are derived from research). That 180 hours might not be solved easily. Medical specialists outsource referral triaging to nurses who spend approximately 650 hours per year. Using paper, phone calls and fax referrals — is that a cultural behaviour problem? Or is it because they don’t know what a good website looks like? I think McKinsey has been calling it a “digital storefront” for a while now.

Using paper, phone calls and fax referrals — is that a cultural behaviour problem? Or is it because they just don’t know what a good website looks like? I think McKinsey has been calling it a “digital storefront” for a while now.

Differentiating and understanding what people want

Notably, another founder told me that humans all want the same things and have the same motivations regarding work. Possibly a true generalization. They want to work fewer hours, make more money and spend time doing things they enjoy in life. Any quick generalization about the doctors might not apply. Though I would agree with him that’s a narrative to be used because it’s easy to understand. Don’t these doctors want more time back in their lives to do things they enjoy? Or are they like lawyers who derive prestige from the number of hours they work? A problem is cultural if people hold beliefs shaping behaviour that in the long term cause physical or mental distress. Or, it could just be as simple as teaching people how to have good preventive mental self-care, such as how to relax, detach from work and have restorative sleep.

The burnout problem is real and expensive

Telling a relatable story, aren’t you sick of working with incompetent people who either take your credit or ruin your work and subsequently, watching your health progressively deteriorate due to burnout? Burnout can happen anywhere and have various causes. Burnout costs between $125 billion and $190 billion in healthcare costs per year. Physician burnout costs $4.6 B per year. Perhaps now you can also relate to physician work-life frustrations.

Alas, averages are averages and do not necessarily reflect the distribution of customer behaviour (Who says the distribution necessarily be normal?) These figures might not necessarily be reflective of the doctors who set up offices in urban areas near you. Numbers carry another facade. They are only indicators to generate more questions that get at the cause of these problems: practical barriers and prevalent cultural attitudes that are difficult to change.

Segmentation is Marketing and Vice Versa

You can begin to understand why the practical advice of talking to users works better for the entrepreneur. The users you talk to might not be the same users that completed the study that produces those metrics you see online from that research report. The thing about users is about identifying the best first customer target.

A study out of UC Berkeley says a whopping 72% of entrepreneurs have some kind of mental-health issue. Of the entrepreneurs they studied, 30% had a history of depression, 19% had ADHD, 12% had substance abuse issues, and 11% reported having bipolar disorder.

The Economic Impact of depression — it’s a global problem

Mental Disorders rank 2nd in terms of economic impact

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Jacqueline Chan

An online diary regarding reflections, thoughts on emerging tech, sales and stuff. I also post updates about the progress I make at Healthily Match.