While more and more employers are offering mental health benefits, that doesn’t always translate into opportunities for traditional behavioral health providers.
Many companies opt to provide the benefits through app-based solutions that specialize in remote coaching and stress-reduction, with trendy startups like Headspace and Ginger winning business from corporate giants such as Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX), Pinterest (NYSE: PINS) and Hyatt (NYSE: H), among others.
But one digital health company — who boasts impressive corporate partners of its own — is taking a different approach. Lyra Health is partnering with thousands of behavioral health providers nationwide in an effort to offer more comprehensive mental health benefits, boosting its provider partners’ business in the process.
“Lyra would not exist if it were not for the incredibly talented and caring providers with whom we partner,” Renee Schneider, vice president of clinical quality at Lyra told Behavioral Health Business. “Our aim is to revolutionize behavioral health care not only for employers, but for providers, too.”
While some other digital health startups opt to employ clinicians themselves, Burlingame, California-based Lyra contracts with providers, most of whom then offer psychotherapy in exchange for a fee. In 2019 alone, the company grew its network of therapists by more than 60%.
That, in turn, allows Lyra to offer member employees various levels of care, from coaching to more intensive in-person therapy.
“We believe that choice is important and that people need to have options in how they’re going to manage their mental health concerns,” Schneider told BHB. “Part of that is offering video therapy or in-person therapy, so that people can do what works for them.”
Lyra’s model is relatively unique when you compare it to other startups offering employee mental health benefits. Take Ginger, for example.
The San Francisco-based virtual behavioral health care system delivers text- and video-based mental health services to users, including behavioral health coaching, therapy and psychiatry. Coaches are employed directly by Ginger, and therapists and psychiatrists are contracted.
While therapy and psychiatry are available through Ginger, coaching is the company’s most popular level of care, according to co-founder and COO Karan Singh.
“I would say 90% of the members who are engaged with the Ginger app are engaged with our mental health coaches,” Singh previously told BHB.
The majority of companies that purchase Ginger opt for their full system-based approach, allowing members access to various levels of remote care. Ginger’s coaches stay with the member as they move throughout the continuum.
Meanwhile, Lyra connects its members with partner providers who offer various levels of care in various settings.
“I think [companies] are seeing that some of the benefits that have been traditionally offered are just not making the changes in employees lives that they might want,” Schneider said. “They’re moving in a direction of offering a more robust offering that will really reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and increase levels of productivity.”
Some of Lyra’s corporate partners include Uber (NYSE: UBER), eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) and Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN), among others. The company covers more than one million U.S. employees and dependents.
To date, the five-year-old startup has raised more than $103 million in funding, according to the fundraising tracker Crunchbase.
By comparison, Headspace — which provides virtual meditation and mental fitness products and resources — has raised just over $168 million, while Ginger has raised $70.5 million, Singh previously told BHB. Headspace and Ginger were founded in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
How it works
Companies who partner with Lyra Health for their employee assistance programs (EAP) usually purchase a set number of therapy sessions for each employee.
The process to access care usually starts online. Lyra’s platform takes users through a brief triage process, during which members are asked about their presenting problems, from clinical symptoms to severity of issues.
From there, “intelligent matching technology” connects members with a provider who has availability and is best suited to serve their specific needs. This process takes less than 10 minutes, with appointments available in as few as 24 hours.
That quickness was a big selling point for eBay, one of Lyra’s corporate partners. Before they made the switch, employees were complaining they couldn’t get timely access to care.
“The majority of providers in [our health plan and EAP] network just weren’t available,” a benefits leader at eBay said. “It was an opportunity for positive change.”
A year after switching to Lyra, employee engagement was up seven times over the former EAP.
Lyra’s provider network is key to improving access to care. All providers in the network are vetted ahead of time.
“We have a database that houses information on providers and allows us to very quickly ascertain who in a given geography is most likely practicing evidence-based therapy,” Schneider said. “From there, we have a thorough vetting interview that we do with any prospective provider, and we really pressure test their understanding and ability to deliver evidence-based therapy.”
Providers who pass Lyra’s test are then invited to join its network. However, providers can be removed at any time if they fail to meet the startup’s standards.
“Every week my team meets, and we look at a group of providers to see how they measure up on different metrics to determine whether they’re still practicing evidence-based therapies,” Schneider said.
Lyra’s provider network is unique to each market in which it operates. The company has anecdotally heard partnering providers see more client referrals as a result of the relationship.
“For many providers, partnering with Lyra means they can spend less time advertising their business and creating new referral streams — and more time doing what they are passionate about, which is providing evidence-based therapy for patients,” Schneider said.