In digital health circles, the term “mental health” is out and “digital behavioral health” is in.
A New York-based startup called AbilTo is among the most well-funded in that group. And the company just landed an additional $6 million in financing for its technology that remotely delivers “behavior interventions to high-cost medical populations.”
What this means in practice is that AbilTo has devised an eight-week program for folks with chronic and/ or traumatic health conditions, such as diabetes, to stay emotionally and physically healthy in between doctor’s visits.
Among other things, the company connects these patients with a therapist, who can help them manage stress and anxiety. This service is delivered remotely using a secure video link or telephone.
On the backend, the company measures the magnitude of this behavior change and provides some transparency to validate any health outcomes (and potential savings).
For folks with chronic conditions, paying medical bills is a huge expense for employers and insurers. If AbilTo can prompt these populations to change their behavior, it could relieve the financial burden for health plans and plan sponsors.
For this reason, AbilTo is under pressure to forge partnerships with employers and insurance providers. The company has been making steady progress. Through a recent agreement with Aetna (this key partnership was likely instrumental in helping AbilTo secure its second round of institutional funding), AbilTo’s team can access thousands of potential health recipients in all 50 states. AbilTo also disclosed that it has forged a partnership with Costco to serve its 174,000 employees, and it’s also working with other large enterprises.
Jeff Makowka, a senior strategist at AARP, the most powerful lobby for senior citizens, has been tracking the company since the early days. He recalls the company struggling to gain traction and was concerned that it wasn’t differentiated from the competition. Early-stage startups Empower Interactive and Talk Session have a similar digital behavioral health offerings.
However, Makowka is keeping a close eye on tele-psychiatry startups, like AbilTo, which deliver care remotely. “They demonstrated how much longer and more engaged people are with tele consults for therapy as it avoids the stigma and inconvenience of going to the therapist’s office,” said Makowka in an email. “That makes a lot of sense.”
The funding comes from the Blue Cross Blue Shield venture capital fund, which holds $305 million under management, and Chicago-based venture firm Sandbox Industries. 406 Ventures, which led the first round institutional funding, also participated in the round.