When Hims first launched in 2017, the direct-to-consumer telemedicine startup billed itself as a men’s wellness brand focused on providing access to treatment for stigmatized gender-specific conditions such as hair loss and erectile dysfunction.
Since then, however, the company has drastically expanded its reach to become a multi-specialty virtual care platform, connecting consumers to licensed health care professionals nationwide via telehealth. It introduced a women’s health arm known as Hers in 2018 and continues to lengthen the list of conditions it can treat.
Mental health services are one of its newest offerings. In April, Hims dipped its toes into the behavioral water with the launch free anonymous group support sessions for users.
Next up, the goal is to bring individual therapy to users nationwide, according to Julian Cohen, who was recently hired as the first-ever senior vice president of behavioral health at Hims & Hers.
Behavioral Health Business recently connected with Cohen via email to discuss the company’s behavioral health strategy and outlook, as well as how those will be impacted by its recent decision to go public via a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Also known as blank check companies, SPACs are designed to take organizations public without going through the traditional IPO process.
You can find BHB’s conversation with Cohen below, edited for length and clarity.
BHB: What drove Hims & Hers to first introduce mental health offerings?
Cohen: We started thinking about how we could build access to a first-in-class, virtual mental health program well over a year ago.
We took a look at what was available in the market and talked to experts and providers in the field. Most importantly, we knew we needed to hear directly from those who were struggling to access care. After listening to over 1,300 prospective patients, we realized the existing options left many people out — they were expensive and inflexible, and patients felt stuck in one-size-fits-all programs. Instead, people wanted a range of choices at a variety of price points, with the ability to alter their level of engagement as needed.
In response to that feedback we launched free anonymous group support sessions in April, covering everything from coping with COVID-19 to anxiety management and relationship advice.
What prompted you to expand those offerings to include one-on-one therapy for certain geographies in July?
Since day one, Hims & Hers has been focused on destigmatizing health and wellness concerns and creating a safe space where people feel confident starting conversations about getting the care they need.
Mental health care was always on our roadmap, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing measures, we saw a critical need to accelerate this treatment option.
Our nation is experiencing an escalation of mental health crises, with the Census Bureau reporting that one-third of Americans are now showing signs of clinical anxiety and depression amid the pandemic. We feel a deep responsibility to make virtual support available that is easy to access from home.
Any numbers on usership or outcomes you can share as it relates to those mental health offerings?
We’re not able to share any specific numbers, but have seen a strong, positive response from consumers across our offerings.
Who provides mental health care to Hims & Hers patients? Do you contract with outside behavioral health providers or are those clinicians on staff?
We work closely with separate medical groups (sometimes referred to as professional corporations or PCs) that utilize our platform to offer medical care and treatment to our customers. These medical groups are exclusively owned and clinically managed by providers.
The PCs contract with the providers who provide clinical services through the Hims & Hers platform. Hims & Hers provides certain administrative services for the PC (e.g., the technology associated with the platform itself), but it does not control the clinical decisions of the PCs or their providers, including decisions related to hiring or terminating physicians. This enables us to create a clear line between clinical and non-clinical decisions.
Do you see any opportunities to work with traditional behavioral health providers formally or informally?
We’re currently focused on continuing to expand and grow our virtual mental health offerings and bringing on-on-one talk therapy to the platform.
Hims & Hers recently completed its definitive merger agreement with the SPAC Oaktree Acquisition Corp. Under the agreement, the combined company will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). How will the IPO change things, if at all?
The long-term vision of the company has always been as the front door to the healthcare system.
When we launched in 2017, we started with highly stigmatized conditions for which there was an unmet need. Today, we offer access to treatment for dozens of conditions across areas like primary care, mental health, dermatology, sexual wellness and more.
Working with an institutional investor as a vehicle to enter the public market will allow us to continue to expand the categories of care for which we offer access to treatment, with the goal of becoming the first stop for people’s health and wellness needs across hundreds of conditions.
What does the future hold for Him & Hers in terms of mental health offerings?
Since our initial launch in April, we’ve always talked about the platform including one-on-one talk therapy and are working to add that as a treatment option for customers.