The technology arm of UnitedHealth has signed a strategic partnership with telehealth company Talkspace.
UnitedHealth Group’s Optum is going to make the telemental health app Talkspace available to its 2 million customers.
In an announcement following the closing of its most recent funding round, Talkspace leadership noted that its $50 million in new financing led by Revolution Growth coincides with a major agreement between the telehealth company and United Health Group’s technology division, Optum.
“The round closes as Talkspace launches key partnerships with Optum’s behavioral health business,” said Talkspace’s Chief Commercial Officer Lynn Hamilton.
“With all of our groundbreaking, strategic relationships, millions of members will benefit from unprecedented access to our services through managed behavioral healthcare. It is a testament to over two years of efforts to build the infrastructure, capabilities and industry-leading, evidence-based quality of care needed to deliver a healthcare solution that can improve accessibility at scale.”
Through the Talkspace, individuals pay a subscription fee for unlimited messaging with one of the company’s 5,000 contracted healthcare professionals. To date, the telepsychology company has tailored services specifically to teenagers and couples.
UnitedHealth isn’t the only payer working with the telebehavioral company, which provides services to employers as part of commercial agreements with Aetna, New Directions Behavioral Health, and Magellan Health. All told, five million lives have access to these telemental services.
“Our advanced capabilities in data science enable us to not only open access to therapy, but also identify the attributes of successful therapeutic relationships and apply that knowledge throughout the predictive products we build, to the therapists that use our platform, and in the content we provide,” said Oren Frank, who cofounded Talkspace where he now serves as CEO.
In its Series C funding in 2017, Talkspace raised $31 million, bringing its total year-to-date funding to $110 million.* The new financing is earmarked for the development of new capabilities, with machine learning and artificial intelligence identified as areas of interest.
A Bloomberg report observed that 57 million American adults suffer from mental or behavioral health conditions as recently as 2017, with 7 out of 10 receiving no treatment whatsoever.
According to data published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, serious mental illness is responsible for $193.2 billion in lost earnings; common mental conditions are the third most common cost of US hospitalizations for adults 18 to 44; and individuals with mental conditions are an increased risk of chronic disease, which leads to improper utilization and high costs. That’s before touching on the fatal consequences resulting from a lack of treatment for mental health conditions.
This gap in care has attracted interest and investment in digital health companies. Research from investment firm Rock Health shows a considerable increase in digital health company funding over the last several years. Investors paid more than $8 billion in funding in 2018, up from $1 billion in financing in 2011and almost $6 billion in 2017.
These investments preceded the approval of prescription mobile applications by the Food and Drug Administration and the tendency of providers — as many as three-quarters — to recommend apps to patients.
“The emergence of therapy apps comes at a time when insurers are facing lawsuits and complaints from advocates and regulators over the persistent difficulty many people face getting care for mental health and substance abuse,” Bloomberg’s John Tozzi reports.
“Although much of Talkspace’s business comes from retail customers who pay directly, Frank said the service is increasingly being packaged into employer benefit plans,” he continues. “With the new members added through the Optum agreement, a total of about 5 million people will have access to Talkspace through health plans, employee-assistance programs or educational organizations.”
Date: May 30, 2019
Source: Health Payer Intelligence