The New York City-based health tech company Headway has expanded its therapist connection platform to California.
The company acts as a go-between for payers, providers and patients. It partners with health plans to supply mental health practitioners with a suite of tech services to alleviate providers’ administrative burdens and make it easier for patients to get access to in-network care.
Headway doesn’t charge patients or therapists to use its services. Instead, it takes a commission from the insurance providers with which it works.
The company has partnerships in 14 other states and the District of Columbia. It has several partnerships with payers including several BlueCross BlueShield entities including Empire BlueCross BlueShield, Carefirst BlueCross BlueShield and BlueCross NC.
To expand into California, Headway established partnerships with payers it works with in other markets: Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI) and UnitedHealthcare.
The move gives Headway access to the nation’s most populous state and largest market by gross domestic product. It also marks an expansion into a state that collectively struggles to connect people with mental illness to health care.
As many as 63% of California residents with any mental illness (AMI) don’t receive care, the third worst among the states and the District of Columbia, according to the most recent report by Mental Health America.
Nationwide, 42% of people didn’t receive care because it was too expensive, according to the Mental Health America report.
The federal National Institute for Mental Health found that about 21% of Americans (53 million) reported having a mental illness in 2020.
“The mental health care crisis in California could happen anywhere, and is a reflection of our country’s broken system,” Andrew Adams, founder and CEO, Headway, said in a news release.
Headway uses its software to facilitate better connections between providers, patients and payers.
For providers, it eases the administrative burdens of credentialing, scheduling, billing, and revenue-cycle management. Headway’s patient user interface allows for detailed searches based on several criteria such as race, gender, location and specialty. Health plans can use the platform to expand their mental health networks and get additional care data.
Nationwide, its software facilitates about 2.5 million appointments a year; is used by more than 20,000 credentialed mental health providers; and clocks an average wait time to the first appointment of 5.9 days. Some patients can get in front of a provider in as little as 48 hours in some cases, according to the release.
Clinicians no longer have to deal with the business side of behavioral health and just be clinicians — provide services, treatments to their patients and then get paid for it through Headway by CareFirstOleg Tarkovsky, director of behavioral health services at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield
A tech solution that smooths out the intake and booking process of therapists is universally important. But, it is a matter of legal jeopardy for California-based providers.
The state’s legislature mandated that all mental health or substance use disorder care providers complete initial appointments for in-network patients in 10 days less after a patient seeks one. Senate Bill 221 became law a year ago and became effective on July 1.
Over the last month or so, Headway has built a diverse network of mental health practitioners. Here are some stats on the providers from Headway:
- 60% are non-white
- 30% are fluent in a language other than English including Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Korean and Tagalog
- 25% support LGBTQIA+ needs
- 15% are Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)
The company’s approach to being a connector between payers, patients and providers has appeared to win over investors.
In May 2021, Headway landed a $70-million Series B funding round led by the venture capital fund Andreessen Horowitz. The round also included Thrive Capital, GV and Accel. Since its founding in 2019, it’s raised $100.5 million, according to cruchbase.com.
Earlier in the year, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield — a nonprofit payer covering 3.6 million members and employers in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia — turned to Headway to help its 16,000 behavioral health providers better meet the demand in its network.
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield found that many solo providers were lacking bandwidth and back office support, Oleg Tarkovsky, director of behavioral health services at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, said.
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield awarded a “huge contract” to Headway to better organize and support the CareFirst behavioral health network.
“Clinicians no longer have to deal with the business side of behavioral health and just be clinicians — provide services, treatments to their patients and then get paid for it through Headway by CareFirst,” Tarkovsky said.