We just had a chat with Mark Goldenson, founder and CEO of Breakthrough.com, an online telemedicine app for mental health.
Breakthrough signs up licensed mental health professionals and lets them treat patients via video, voice and chat.
We singled out Breakthrough as one of the companies we’d love to invest in if we could, and its model is compelling for many reasons.
Therapy is a $21 billion market in the US. Even though 20% of Americans have mental health conditions (and that doesn’t include things like stress, relationship woes and the like), very few of them seek treatment.
Oftentimes, this is because of the embarrassment of going to see a therapist, which chatting from home alleviates. Furthermore, telemedicine both lowers costs and expands coverage, which is a huge priority in the wake of the new healthcare reform legislation.
Since its launch at TechCrunch50 last September, Breakthrough has seen progress but is moving slowly. They sign up only licensed health professionals and must verify their identity and credentials. They started out with 5 and now have 200, with coverage in each US state.
Instead of going to individual clients, they’re trying to sign up organisations such as large employers, health insurers and colleges.
Many businesses already provide therapy to their employees under Employee Assistance Programs but most people don’t go because they don’t want to be seen attending therapy by their colleagues, which telemedicine can solve.
Goldenson told me that a large company experimented with telemedicine: usage went up 75%, success rate was up 50%, but costs nonetheless dropped because telemedicine is cheaper. The person in charge of the program asserted that the company had made two dollars in increased productivity for every dollar spent on the program.
Health insurers are also a very promising target for Breakthrough because their service drives down costs and increases coverage at the same time. Goldenson poached the CMO of United behavioural Health, a big mental health insurer, and is now making the rounds at the big insurers to get them to sign up for his service.
Because Breakthrough’s model relies on signing up providers and large organisations one at a time, they haven’t seen stellar growth in the six months since they’ve launched. Goldenson described his company to me as “the anti-Twitter”: slower growth but higher revenue growth. Goldenson plans to operate under a freemium model, offering tools to providers for free but charging organisations for additional features such as administration and reporting.
Goldenson worked at PayPal before it was acquired by EBay and was previously the founder of PlayCafé, a short lived online video network for games. Originally a premed at Stanford, he “got sidetracked into startups,” so his idea of a telemedicine app is near and dear to him.
We think Breakthrough has some happy days ahead of it.
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