Telehealth Uses Tech to Treat Americans’ Mental Health

America has a mental health problem. According to a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four Americans experience mental illness each year.

The National Institute of Mental Health says the most common type of mental illness is anxiety disorder, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older — or 18 percent of the population.

The problem is getting worse, with the nation facing a shortage of mental health care providers as baby boomers retire, combat veterans struggle with PTSD and a new addiction crisis is sweeping the nation.

Harrison Tyner, a student from the University of South Carolina, observed this problem firsthand when a loved one had to move to another city to receive mental health treatment. Affected by the move, Tyner saw a need for something that would let patients receive care from a provider without having to uproot their lives.

Harrison_Tyner

Harrison Tyner

In 2011, WeCounsel was born in a South Carolina college dorm room, as a solution to the deficit of adequate mental health care. Tyner and two other founders began building a software platform for patients and providers to interact remotely, referred to as “telehealth.”

That began a five-year journey that Tyner calls “the grind.” WeCounsel grew from the dorm room into Gigtank, a startup accelerator, then into an online network where patients connected with mental health professionals via videoconference.

But the product didn’t immediately take off. After the departure of two founders, and years of hustling, the business pivoted from an online network to software as a service model. Finally, it clicked.

With cloud software incorporating HIPAA-compliant video conferencing, practice management tools such as scheduling and billing and customizable workflow solutions, the new model allowed a provider to use WeCounsel as a full online virtual office. Mental health professionals could work from anywhere. They found that the virtual access to sessions reduced no shows and cancellations, and even helped retain clients who moved away.

On the other end, a patient could use WeCounsel to meet with their provider from home or work, maintaining a familiar level of privacy and comfort. This helped patients living in rural areas cut down on long drives to their specialists.

Since then, WeCounsel has emerged as a leader in the cloud telehealth software industry.  “We have seen significant growth and traction, securing major client relationships with companies such as InSight Telepsychiatry, R3 Continuum, and others,” Tyner said.

Last week, WeCounsel, announced a $3.5 million Series A growth round of funding. Long Meadow Capital, a Connecticut-based healthcare fund, led the round with participation from strategic partners including Point Judith Capital, a Boston-based technology fund, and CVH Holdings, chaired by John Randazzo.

“We are fortunate to have two funds with deep knowledge in the two spaces that we identify: healthcare and technology,” said Tyner. “Our company lives at that intersection, so we look forward to applying their expertise in these areas.”

David Martirano, a managing partner from Point Judith Capital, said WeCounsel fills a particular demand for mental health services that other telehealth solutions are simply not built to satisfy.

The National Institute of Mental Health says the most common type of mental illness is anxiety disorder, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older

“WeCounsel’s custom solution provides mental health professionals with the tools they need for convenient and effective client engagement,” Martirano said. “We are extremely excited to be backing Harrison and his team and are eager to support the company’s future growth.”

With a current team of seven, WeCounsel plans to use the new capital to hire additional management, increase development capacity and expand the company’s marketing and sales efforts.

“We live at a time when access to mental health care is at the forefront of a national conversation, whether it is about our provider shortage, the addiction crisis, or serving an aging baby boomer population,” Tyner said. “We are determined to bridge that gap with our sophisticated cloud-based telehealth solution.”

Dave Schools is a contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveSchools_.