Mobile telemedicine company Doctor on Demand has found a promising new use for its technology platform — enabling customers to have virtual visits with a mental health professional.
The San Francisco-based startup has completely redesigned its app to reflect the expansion of its services to mental health. It has also set up a whole new network of mental health professionals in all 50 states to answer customers’ calls. In total, the network consists of 300 licensed therapists.
Providers must have a PhD or an MD behind their name to participate. They also have to commit to 15 hours a week to take calls on the service.
Unlike Doctor on Demand’s virtual medical doctor visits, the mental health sessions aren’t “on demand.” Rather, they’re scheduled in advance. Customers can, however, specify in their request that they’d like a same-day therapist meeting, Doctor on Demand cofounder and CEO Adam Jackson told VentureBeat.
Another difference is that customers can choose their therapist for mental health sessions, while in the medical part of the app, a doctor is chosen for them.
The mental health sessions cost $50 for 25 minutes (Doctor on Demand takes $10 of it), or $95 for a full 50-minute meeting (Doctor on Demand takes $15).
A virtual therapist meeting starts with the customer answering a few logistical and demographic questions in the app. The customer is then asked a series of questions about the mental health issue or issues he or she is seeking help with. The app might ask how often the person is experiencing anxiety, for example. Then the customer selects the duration of the meeting, inputs payment information, and the session begins.
According to the CDC, 50 percent of Americans will experience mental and emotional health issues at some point in their lives, but only 40 percent receive treatment.
Virtual mental health visits might help clear away a common barrier to getting help for mental health issues, said Doctor on Demand chief medical officer Dr. Pat Basu. Many people — especially men — tend to ignore mental health problems, and/or self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. More people might receive proper care if all they had to do was launch an app, Basu said.
Doctor on Demand is also launching virtual lactation consultant visits for nursing mothers in cooperation with UpSpring. New moms often get just a short training session on how to breastfeed — usually at the hospital right after the baby is born — and they often have questions later on, Jackson explains. The cost of a video visit with a Doctor on Demand/UpSpring lactation consultant is $40 for a 25-minute session and $70 for a 50-minute session.
Doctor on Demand offers its services directly to consumers as well as through employers, health systems, and health plans. The company, which was founded by Jackson and (Dr. Phil’s son) Jay McGraw in 2012, has raised $24 million from Venrock, Shasta Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, Lerer Ventures, angel investor Sir Richard Branson, and Athena Health CEO Jonathan Bush.