Smart Money Money Backs Virtual Behavioral Healthcare Platforms

Addiction Treatment Industry Newswire
12/25/2012 -ATIN – When we look back on the years 2012/2013, it will be apparent that this was the era in which highly efficient, deeply disruptive tele-behavioral health services began to take off. There are dozens of initiatives under way throughout the country ranging from very modest in scope to highly aggressive efforts whose aim is a thoroughly disruptive transformation of the entire behavioral and addictions sub sectors of the medical industry.

Smart Money

One venture that falls more into the later category is eTherapi, which for the last several years has been building the technological platform required for creating a virtual behavioral health company, one that could in fact become far larger than any entity that exists today and, in theory anyway, grow quite quickly. And, for the first time, a truly national behavioral health company could emerge, as opposed to the existing national entities like Psych Solutions and UHS that are aggregations of locally conceived and built facilities. Betting on eTherapi’s success is lead investor Fred Moll, a billionaire and one of the most successful health care investors of all time as founder of medical device pioneer Hansen Medical.

Convenience and Ubiquitous Access

eTherapi CEO Mani Foroohar sees a behavioral health future where accessing care will one day be as easy as stopping by the 7 Eleven for your morning coffee. “They are called convenience stores for a reason,” he says, adding that he understands that some might see the comparison of behavioral health and 7 Eleven as somewhat flip. “But it really goes to the heart of the issue because we are talking about the fundamental transformation of a behavioral health system that is difficult for the client to access with myriad roadblocks to getting needed care into a system where accessing care is literally as easy as stopping by the 7 Eleven and getting your morning coffee.” Along with the big jump in convenience, is going to come an environment where access to care is going to be far more ubiquitous, which may seem obvious given that every computer, tablet and even mobile phone is going to be turned into a Fed Moll lead investor eTherapi and founder Hansen Medical potential treatment delivery platform. Right now, there are groups and individual therapy being undertaken online and, especially in countries like Australia, even highly complex treatment regimens that would be considered a program of treatment that would today often require a highly expensive inpatient stay at a facility.

A Primary Psychiatrist?

Where behavioral health delivered via the Internet has the possibly biggest potential to take off early, and will likely be the entry point for most people in experiencing tele-behavioral health as a client, is in the testing and diagnostic arena. To a degree that was previously far too cumbersome and expensive, each therapist will be able to administer diagnostic testing across the range of their entire client base and, thus, be able to have a sense of each client’s mental health, personality, etc..that was previously far too expensive and cumbersome. It could even emerge as costs come way down, and the costs of not administering basic mental health care are factored in, that it will be commonplace for people to have a primary therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist in much the same way that people have a primary general practitioner in the overall administration of the a person’s physical health.

The Far Future?

Much is made out the cost savings that will emerge in the $150 billion a year behavioral health industry from virtual solutions and, indeed, these savings are bound to be VERY substantial indeed. To the extent that service becomes more convenient and ubiquitously available, the uptake rate, or the rate at which the population as whole taps into available services, will likely skyrocket. Thus, to what extent in the future will costs actually come down in terms of dollars spent? Perhaps not at all and, in fact, just the opposite may occur. According to the WHO, behavioral health will become the largest specialty health services sector within a decade. A great deal of that growth will come from growth in Internet/distance delivered services.

eTherap’s Future

With smart money like Fred Moll as lead investor, clearly eTherapi is a company that bears watching, although virtually all of the few years of the firm’s existence has been spent in technological development so far. (There are therapists who have signed up sort of randomly without any effort at recruitment, says the CEO, adding that helping build individual virtual practices will only be a part of what the company does). But, according to CEO Foroohar, 2013 will be the year the platform will start being plugged into deals. Addiction as a chronic disease? “It’s not perfectly plug n’ play, but its close,” he says. “It’s the kind of care where our technology will be able to deliver tremendous value added.”