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One of the biggest challenges to emerge from the COVID pandemic was a rise in mental health concerns, thanks to added stress, as well as social isolation: KFF found that 53 percent of adults in the United States have struggled with mental health during COVID-19. Combine that with the inability, or lack of desire, to go out and see a doctor in person, those conditions were only going to get worse.
The solution is to combine mental healthcare and telemedicine, allowing people who are struggling to see a therapist or psychiatrist from the comfort of their own home, either via video, text or chat, rather than needing to risk their health by seeing someone in person.
That's exactly what 98point6 is now offering, as the telehealth company announced its new behavioral health offering on Wednesday, combining it with its existing virtual primary care solution.
"In December 2020, mental and behavioral health disorders were among 98point6’s top diagnosed conditions. However, taking the first step toward mental well-being can be the hardest, and delaying care can have serious consequences, including negative health outcomes and higher costs of care down the road," Sara Smucker Barnwell, Clinical Director of Behavioral Health at 98point6, told me.
"At a time when people need the extra support, our integrated offering creates a single-stop virtual care solution that ensures employees are fully supported in their mental health treatment journeys during these challenging times and beyond."
Founded in 2015, 98point6 provides text-based primary care, allowing patients to connect to a doctor via a mobile app. After their visit, patients have a care plan that is sent to their phone, with professional diagnosis and treatment, while any prescriptions are sent to their local pharmacy.
The company uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to get information on the patient, as well as to learn from their visits, so it can provide better care as it gets smarter.
Members access the behavioral health offering the same way they would previously, connecting first with a primary care physician who will diagnose the concern or issue they have. If they determine that a behavioral health coach or licensed therapist is the appropriate level of care for the patient, the member will be directed to schedule a session. That could be with a licensed therapist, who will help them diagnose and manage their mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression; or they could be directed to behavioral health coaching, which provides patients with support for things like unmanaged stress, life transitions or illness. The program also includes self-paced digital programs so that members can ways to better understand their issues and help them make changes.
Patient can choose the day and time for the therapy or coaching session, which are available Monday through Saturday, and also complete a short behavioral health assessment at time of scheduling. On the day of the therapy or coaching session, the patient joins the visit link and after the session ends, they will receive a follow-up email that includes the ability to schedule future sessions as well as a feedback survey link.
There are a number of companies offering mental and behavioral health services through telemedicine, including Ginger, Amwell, Talkspace and BetterHelp, among others. What separates 98point6's platform is that it takes a collaborative care approach when it comes to mental health, meaning that the coaches and therapists focus on behavioral support, while the primary care physicians address related physical symptoms and concerns.
"Primary care physicians provide necessary and valuable assessment, support and treatment, but many patients need more specialized interventions. Mental and physical health are related: when someone’s mental health is not well-managed, overall health is negatively affected. With 98point6 primary care and behavioral health, we are combining two essential services into one coordinated solution," Barnwell told me.
Through the primary care relationship, the company is seeking to take away some of the barriers that prevent people from receiving behavioral healthcare. As members have on-demand access to physicians, they can identify mental health issues further upstream, reducing stigma to help normalize behavioral health mindsets and encourage individuals to seek help before it becomes more costly.
"As a result, members are provided with, and guided to, the appropriate level of care sooner, including medication management, at their convenience. By delivering behavioral health alongside the primary care relationship, patients can achieve better outcomes and an overall better quality of life."
98point6 began rolling out its primary care with behavioral health solution this month to its 4.8 million members, who come from more than 300 commercial contracts with employers, health plans, health systems and retail partners. That number is up from the 3 million members from 200 commercial contracts the company had when it raised a $43 million Series D round in April of last year (the company has raised a total of $247 million, including a $118 million Series E round in October).
That growth is due, at least in part, to the pandemic and the way it changed how digital care is viewed, Barnwell told me.
"Our accelerated growth has come, in part, from employers, health plans and retail partners increasingly viewing a robust digital care offering as an essential component of their benefits," she said.
"Additionally in 2020, we had existing employer and health plan partners expand coverage to more of their population to provide access to a remote care option when they needed it most. We worked side-by-side with our partners to respond as needs evolved and were delighted to be able to bring accessible, quality care to everyone we could in a time of heightened need."
Since the company is only a few weeks into the rollout of its behavioral health offering, it's too early to share engagement trends, she said; however, Barnwell did point out to me that, according to the World Health Organization, depression is now one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, and coupled with anxiety, the global economy loses over $1 trillion a year in employee productivity.
"After a tough year that impacted everyone's mental health, we anticipate the offering of this service to be highly relevant as more employers look to support their employees' mental well-being during these challenging times."
Register for our May 19 Future of Mental and Behavioral virtual event. We'll have top-level VCs and C-level executives from the leading mental and behavioral companies, such as Ginger.io, Teladoc's BetterHelp, Amwell, Doctor on Demand, Kaiser Permanente, Bessemer Ventures and more.
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