| October 25, 2018

A Chicago Startup Brings Virtual Mental Health Services to Clinics

Andreea Ciulac

Andreea Ciulac is former Chicago Tribune writer with almost a decade of reporting experience. She has a knack for deciphering... Andreea Ciulac is former Chicago Tribune writer with almost a decade of reporting experience. She has a knack for deciphering complex medical reports and statistics and conveying them into engaging stories that will help executives in healthcare keep up with the digital transformations in their industry. She covers an array of topics from pharma to startups and the Illinois healthcare system.

A Chicago startup is trying to fight the country’s mental health crisis with telepsychiatry.

Launched in 2011, Regroup quickly became one of the leading telepsychiatry companies in the U.S. Their initial business idea is both brilliant and simple: bring mental health services to primary care physician offices via videoconferencing.

More specifically, they provide healthcare institutions with the software and equipment to access their on-staff psychiatrists remotely.

Bringing mental health care to the most remote areas

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. or 43.8 million experiences a mental health condition in a given year, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness.

What’s even more alarming: 56 percent of them don’t receive treatment, either because they can’t afford it or because they are too depressed or embarrassed to ask for help.

Without treatment, patients increase their chances of developing chronic medical conditions, dropping out of school, losing their jobs and families, or in extreme cases, commit suicide.  

Regroup thinks telepsychiatry could prevent these issues, with the click of a button. “People with mental health issues don’t necessarily want to spend the time or have the ability to self-navigate some of the solutions out there,” Cohn said. “But if you go to where they already go see the doctor, it’s a lot easier for them to engage with it and benefit from it.” said David Cohn, founder and CEO of Regroup.

Initially, Regroup catered directly to patients, allowing them to access clinicians from home. Now, the company is shifting to a B2B model, bringing their services to healthcare facilities.

Regroup is also one of Chicago Inno’s 2018 50 on Fire honorees. With only 35 employees in its Ravenswood headquarters, the company managed to raise close to $14 million in venture capital funding from investors like Chicago’s Hyde Park Angels and OSF Ventures.

Regroup’s 100 mental health professionals range from adult and child psychiatrists to psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychologists, and therapists.

Virtual visits, real results

Before seeing patients, these professionals first get familiar with the workflow and systems of their designated clinics. Clinicians are assigned to the same facility each week and learn how to utilize that facility’s electronic health record (EHR) system and electronic prescribing system.

The startup, which offers their services in more 20 states, has treated over 100,000 people and are averaging about 10,000 sessions per month, Cohn said.

Here’s what happens during a session:

After a patient arrives at the doctor’s office, they can begin a virtual visit via RegroupConnect. A specialist will be waiting on the other side of the screen. The conversation is private and clinicians follow-up with lab tests or drug prescriptions. The patient sees the same clinician during each of their visits.

Regroup’s telepsychiatric services are particularly important for healthcare facilities in rural Illinois. The 1.5 million people living in these areas are unlikely to travel to seek mental health services, tele-psychiatry will allow them to get proper care without traveling, taking time off from work, or in some cases, finding childcare.  

The company has plans to recruit more clinicians over the next year and team up with more healthcare facilities. “There’s a tremendous need for these services, and we’re making a little dent in it, but we want to make it much bigger and we intend to keep moving in that direction,” Cohn said.

One area the company could branch out? Nursing facilities. Regroup is already working with geriatric psychiatrists who could pay virtual visits to bedridden seniors and help nursing homes cut down costly trips.

The company’s mission is alignment with Illinois’ larger plan to expand access to mental health services for its residents using digital solutions.

Illinois recently became one of the 30 states that provide reimbursement through Medicaid for tele-mental healthcare. “Medicaid clients with behavioral health needs represent 25 percent of all Medicaid enrollees but account for 56 percent of all Medicaid spending,” health officials explained.

 


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