Meru Health — a comprehensive mental health solution that’s won partnerships with some of the nation’s largest insurers — has its sights set on national expansion, new partnerships and additional offerings.
Meru works with employers and major health insurance companies such as Cigna, Humana and, most recently, Moda Health to provide mental health care for their employees or members. The online solution combines licensed therapists and psychiatrists, a smartphone-based treatment program, a biofeedback wearable and anonymous peer-support groups.
Now, the company, which has raised $13.3 million to date, is working to grow all those capabilities, according to CEO and founder Kristian Ranta.
“We’re expanding in 50 states now, … and we’ve been working on a coaching offering,” Ranta told Behavioral Health Business. “We’re also preparing for an adolescent offering later this year, because that’s obviously an area where there’s a huge increase needed and not a lot of good options for them out there.”
Ranta is a three-time health care entrepreneur with an IT background. He founded Meru in 2016 with Riku Lindholm and Albert Nazander after losing his older brother to suicide several years earlier.
“His depression … wasn’t properly treated or addressed,” Ranata said. “And then I went through my own therapy after that, I realized how much of a bad shape the mental healthcare industry is in.”
Specifically, Ranta set out to solve two of the industry’s main problems with Meru Health: lack of access and lack of results. Not only is it hard to find behavioral health treatment, but it’s uncommon for people to fully recover from conditions such as depression and anxiety.
“So how can we make the care better so that people can actually heal, get better and stay better?” Ranta said of the company’s mission.
Meru starts by working with health plans and employers to connect people to its solution. After being referred to Meru, patients complete a mental health screening assessment, which generates a score that indicates whether the patient is suffering from mental health conditions such as depression.
From there, patients are notified of the assessment results and immediately given the option to virtually schedule a call with a licensed therapist. Meru sends them calendar invites and reminders, as well as a pre-appointment questionnaire designed to help the clinician pinpoint their specific needs.
“Did you have prior episodes? Or are you on medication? Or any other stuff? Maybe some trauma or something else has happened to you,” Ranta said. “Or maybe you have chronic illnesses like heart disease or something else.”
When it comes time for the appointment, the therapist has already reviewed that information. He or she then uses it, along with information obtained from clinical and motivational interviewing, to develop a personalized care plan for the patient.
The patient then downloads an onboarding app to get started on their 12-week program, which is facilitated mostly digitally. Along with the app, patients receive a biofeedback wearable device, which is used for deep breathing exercises and other condition management techniques.
The program goes through everything from cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness to sleep and nutrition in an effort to holistically manage various mental health conditions.
“We also help people with constant support from that same provider that they met … in the intake call,” Ranta said. “[The provider] will be with you in an app chat throughout the whole 12-week experience. And if you want, at any time, you can also hop on on another call or another video visit with [that therapist].”
Ranta said the company’s biggest differentiators are its holistic approach, as well as its scientific roots.
“We’ve done a lot of research from the beginning with UC Davis, Harvard and Stanford,” Ranta said. “Other people have also done research, but if you look into the quality of research … and how good the results are shown in the peer-reviewed papers we published, that’s also where we definitely stand out.”
In the months to come, Meru will be growing the number of insurance companies and other partners in its portfolio, with several partnership announcements coming in the next few weeks, Ranta said. In fact, just a few days after Ranta’s interview with BHB, the company announced a new partnership with Wellspring Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a program of Wellspring Family Services.
On top of that, Meru is currently working to expand its partnerships with national players such as Cigna and Humana. It’s currently in network with the insurers in 16 states, but Ranta said the goal is to achieve nationwide scale with the payers by the end of the year.