A startup whose app connects people with mental health clinicians for counseling through text messages and video chats raised $50 million and forged ties with the biggest U.S. health insurer, a sign that the market for delivering psychotherapy remotely is growing.
The company, Talkspace, said Wednesday that the investment round led by Revolution Growth brings the total amount it has raised so far to about $110 million. Its deal with Optum, a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc., will make the Talkspace app available to about 2 million Optum customers.
About 57 million adults had mental health or substance-use conditions in 2017, and about 70% of them received no treatment, according to federal estimates.
“It’s what we would call a failed market,” said Oren Frank, chief executive officer of Talkspace, who co-founded the company with his wife, Roni Frank, in 2012.
Based in New York, Talkspace connects people with a network of 5,000 licensed therapists. For a fee starting at $49 a week, users can leave text, voice and video messages with counselors who respond five days a week. Customers can pay more for live video chats.
Talkspace is one of several companies selling low-cost, high-tech alternatives to regular in-person therapy visits. Competitors include apps like Ginger and BetterHelp. Larger telehealth companies such as MDLive and Teladoc deliver remote mental health services as well as consultations for physical illnesses.
Investment in digital health companies grew to $8.1 billion in the U.S. in 2018, according to data compiled by investment firm Rock Health. Health-care providers “are trying to extend beyond their physical geographic reach to one that’s more a virtual geographic reach,” said Gurpreet Singh, who specializes in health care at consultant PwC.
About three-quarters of doctors have recommended a digital app to patients, and a similar number of patients said they received in-person care that could have been delivered remotely, according to PwC research. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared prescription mobile apps intended to help people in treatment for substance-use disorders stick to their programs.
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.
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. 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.
At any given period, the number of customers using Talkspace is in the “high tens of thousands,” Frank said.
Norwest Venture Partners, Qumra Capital, Spark Capital and Compound Ventures, all of which previously invested in the company, joined Revolution in the latest round. The startup’s valuation is now in “the mid-hundreds of millions,” Frank said. The company declined to disclose its revenue.
The infusion of capital will help Talkspace expand its commercial partnerships like the Optum deal. Frank said it also hopes to offer the product in China next year.
There’s little definitive research that shows how digital therapy compares with in-person visits. Talkspace says people may benefit from more frequent exchanges with counselors. Online treatment can also reach people who can’t get in-person appointments or resist visiting therapists because of the perceived stigma, the company said.
“We are building this body of evidence, publication by publication,” said Neil Leibowitz, chief medical officer at Talkspace.
该公司 TalkSpace 周三表示，由 RevolutionGrowth 牵头的投资回合使其迄今筹集的资金总额达到约1.1亿美元。与 UnitedHealth Group Inc .旗下的 Optum 达成的协议，将使 TalkSpace 应用程序面向约200万 Optum 客户。
2012年与妻子罗尼•弗兰克( Roni Frank )共同创立了 Talspace 公司。
总部设在纽约的 TalkSpace 为人们提供了一个拥有5000名执业治疗师的网络。从每周49美元起，用户可以向每周5天作出答复的顾问提供文本、语音和视频信息。客户可以支付更多的实时视频聊天。
聊天室是几家销售低成本、高科技替代疗法的公司之一。竞争对手包括 Ginger 和 BetterHelp 等应用程序。较大的远程保健公司，如 MDLive 和 Teladoc ，提供远程精神健康服务以及身体疾病咨询。
投资公司 RockHealth 编制的数据显示，2018年，美国对数字健康公司的投资增至81亿美元。普华永道( PwC )咨询公司专注于医疗保健的 Gurpreit Singh 表示，医疗服务提供商“正试图将其地理覆盖范围扩大到更多的虚拟地理覆盖范围。”
普华永道( PwC )的研究显示，约有四分之三的医生向患者推荐了一款数字应用，另有相当数量的患者表示，他们接受了可以远程提供的个人护理。美国食品药品监督管理局（Food and Drug Administration）已经批准了处方移动应用程序，旨在帮助治疗药物使用障碍的人们坚持他们的计划。
尽管 TalkSpace 的大部分业务来自直接付款的零售客户，但弗兰克表示，该服务正日益被纳入雇主福利计划。随着通过 Optum 协议增加的新成员，大约500万人将通过健康计划、员工援助计划或教育组织进入 TalkSpace 。
弗兰克表示，在任何特定时期，使用 TalkSpace 的客户数量都处于“数万人的高位”。
Norwest Venture Partners 、 Qmra Capital 、 Spark Capital 和 Complex Ventures 都曾投资过该公司，最近一轮加入了 Revolution 。弗兰克表示，该公司目前的估值为“数亿美元左右”。该公司拒绝披露其收入。
注资将有助于 TalkSpace 扩大其商业伙伴关系，如 Optum 交易。弗兰克说，它还希望明年能在中国提供这种产品。
Talspace 首席医疗官尼尔•莱博维茨( Neil Leibowitz )表示：“我们正在以出版物的形式构建这一证据体系。”