Armed With Over $11M in New Funding, Nirvana Health Aims to Help Behavioral Health Providers Simplify Insurance and Operations

New York-based Nirvana Health continues to see growth by helping behavioral health providers streamline their business operations, which includes assisting them with billing processing services. 

Nirvana works with clinicians across all 50 states in managing back end operations with insurance reimbursements. Founded in 2019 and having officially launched for business the following year, Nirvana to date has raised $15.2 million, according to fundraising tracking site Crunchbase.

“We came across this problem and said, ‘Why don’t we just focus on one single thing?’” Akshay Venkitasubramanian, the co-founder and CEO of Nirvana Health, told Behavioral Health Business. “Let’s remove the insurance barrier to mental health care by making it stupid simple for anyone to use insurance across this industry.”

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The nation’s behavioral health industry is growing alongside the increased demand for services, with some estimates having the market rising to over $132 billion by 2027. However, it has also been estimated that many mental health practices collect less than 85% of the money owed to them for patient visits.

“If you ask a therapist what is their single biggest time suck, they would say it’s insurance or trying to figure out what their finances are,” Venkitasubramanian said. “They got into this for care, not for managing books.”

Venkitasubramanian says that is where Nirvana Health comes in.

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“What we do is specifically focus on that problem of how do you simplify insurance so that they can focus on what they do best, which is taking care of patients,” Venkitasubramanian said.

How Nirvana Health works

Licensed practitioners can initially onboard with Nirvana by logging onto the company’s website and submitting electronic health records of patients into its network. Information on patient visits are pulled from the records, whereby Nirvana can check whether a patient’s insurance plan has accepted or rejected a payment claim.

Nirvana then works to resolve payment issues and practitioners are able to track the status of claims through an app.

“The moment we get an insurance card, we automatically figure out who the right mental health care vendors are, so we can ping them to get the information we need,” Urvish Parikh, Nirvana’s co-founder and chief technology officer, told BHB.

Practitioners pay Nirvana a monthly flat fee to use the platform, with no additional revenue taken out of client payments. The company asserts that its services enable practitioners to spend a total of zero hours on insurance claims, in the process saving clients 30% on upfront costs.

According to Nirvana, its services helped clinicians serve 30% more patients in 2021.

“Our goal is to get the claim to complete reimbursement all the time,” Parikh said. “So we’ll do everything we can to do that, whether it’s through programmatic responses or just calling someone up on the payer side.”

Although the company assists patients with getting payments accepted, Nirvana’s main customers are practitioners. The company insists that they do not provide anything akin to insurance brokerage services.

“We directly don’t hold any insurance contracts or enroll people in insurance contracts we negotiate,” Venkitasubramanian said. “We see ourselves more – in a larger word – of a facilitator, of making insurance work for mental health care.”

Nirvana works with independent mental health practices of a variety of sizes, but the current core of its customer base are smaller businesses.

“From a technology perspective, when you’re trying to build something for the solo [practitioners] to grow, you have to build technology for the entire part of the journey,” Parikh said. “We can’t say, ‘We’re not going to take you on because you’re no longer our core customer.’ But we’re trying to make sure that we can go along on the journey for these practices that are trying to scale.”

Nirvana also has a partnership with virtual telebehavioral health company Headspace Health. Through the partnership, Nirvana has been able to build out its application programming interface (API) capabilities to connect with Headspace’s software.

“They’ve helped us actually create abstractions, so that we can be as flexible as possible,” Parikh said. “Whenever compliance changes or rules change, technology has to be really flexible. In a way, Headspace is a template for us to build out our APIs so that we can actually partner with other enterprise clients as well.”

Nirvana’s growth plans

Nirvana had a busy year in 2021, capped off with the company raking in $7.5 million in a November seed funding round led by Inspired Capital Partners. The round followed a June seed funding haul led by Arc Ventures and Eniac Ventures where Nirvana pulled in $4.2 million.

The company is planning to use the latest funding to increase its customer, engineering and sales teams, along with expanding services to more practitioners nationwide.

“How do you cross-connect this ecosystem between a small therapist office and an additional mental healthcare company, or a large provider group?” Venkitasubramanian ruminated. “Building out the connective tissues is what we’re going to focus on with this new round.”

Even though Nirvana has had success with funding in its brief history, the company currently does not have a timetable on raising more in the near future.

“At this point, we are going heads-down to grow and use the capital we have,” Venkitasubramanian said.

Nirvana also hopes to be able to expand its customer base to include lower-income recipients such as those enrolled in Medicaid.

Currently, Nirvana works with practitioners serving commercially-insured patients, who it says are easier to bill for due to reimbursement regulations. The company is seeking to comply with such regulations going forward in order to reach lower-income enrollees.

“Right now, we are unable to support it,” Venkitasubramanian said in regards to Medicaid payment. “But that doesn’t mean that we’re not working towards that. It’s just about focus and prioritization.”

Ultimately, the company said that it additionally plans to work with larger behavioral health players to expand services.

“There are more partners on the horizon that are planning to use that engine,” Venkitasubramanian said about Nirvana’s technological network. “That’s one way we see ourselves also supporting the larger players in the space by staying true to our mission, which is building the best possible insurance engine for the mental health care industry.”

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