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Even as rates of mental illness continue to rise, especially among young people, and even as the conversation around these issues is becoming less stigmatized, there's still one major barrier to overcome for many people seeking help: access to care.
"We believe that it is incredibly hard to get access to high-quality mental health services for so many reasons: it's hard to know what expertise you need, whether a provider is high-quality, and then it's often really expensive and time-consuming to actually get help," Sandeep Acharya, former Head of Strategy at One Medical and the founder and CEO of Octave, told me.
Octave is a technology-based mental health practice and on Tuesday it announced that it raised an $11 million Series A funding round led by Greycroft, with participation from Obvious Ventures. The company, which previously raised funding from Felicis Ventures, Brainchild Holdings, Cherubic Ventures, and several angels including the founder of Flatiron Health, has now raised a total of $14 million.
The San Francisco-based Octave offers its users personalized plans that combine both 30-minute virtual coaching and 45-minute in-person therapy sessions. Services include group sessions for anxiety, LGBTQ patients, and expecting couples. It also provides virtual coaching nationwide, serving patients in multiple states and even internationally.
Unlike its competitors in the space, such as Talkspace, Ginger.io, and BetterHelp, Octave is "the only hybrid physical/digital practice that exists, and we believe in the long haul, this will lead to better outcomes, greater efficiency, and paradoxically, more scalable impact than the tech-only mental health world," said Acharya.
In addition to the funding, the company also announced a new partnership with Anthem Blue Cross of California to serve patients as an in-network provider.
"We are building a national mental health practice that offers a range of services: coaching, groups/classes, therapy, and psychiatry, so that we can make the process really simple. Excitingly, we are starting the journey of offering our services in-network through our partnership with Anthem," said Acharya.
People who use Octave need help with a wide variety of issues, including work/life balance struggles, navigating challenging relationships, navigating grief, or managing life long anxiety. The typical user is under 35 and more white-collar, given the neighborhoods the company currently serves.
"It is, unfortunately, all too common that in this crazy connected times and in the middle of crowded cities, how many people experience loneliness at the root of their challenges," said Acharya.
To figure out if members are improving, Octave measures its clients' symptoms along industry-standard measures before, during and after treatment; though the company was not yet able to provide hard numbers, Acharya did say that "we've noticed material impact, on average, from working with Octave, and surprisingly, equivalent impacts across therapy and coaching."
The new funding will be used, in part, to build out the company's market presence in San Francisco and New York; Octave is set to open its first San Francisco location in less than a week, with its second New York office set to open in the Flatiron Building in December. It will also be used to build out Octave's technology and clinical support for both clients and our providers' that will mean an increase in the number of staff therapists in the coming months, along with free classes for Octave members.
The ultimate goal for Octave, Acharya told me, "is to set a high watermark for what high-quality, accessible care can look like. We would like to have this impact at scale."
"The health-tech space has gotten a lot smarter about moving from just building software tools to thinking about how they support the way care is actually delivered," he said.
"We as an innovator's community are realizing that you can't slap software on a broken process or system and expect things to be fixed. Octave has really internalized that message--and that is why we are really looking to manage all aspects of building a new mental healthcare system, from the billing to the hiring to the clinical design."
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