A huge boost for evidence-based online mental health care

Behavioral health problems are among the most pressing health issues facing the country—affecting more than 18 percent of adults and costing the US $22.8 billion in 2009 and an additional $23 billion in lost productivity. Given the shortage of mental health workers, two-thirds of primary care physicians report difficulty referring patients to behavioral health services.

Last month, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a panel of primary care experts appointed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, recommended that all people age 18 and over undergo depression screening as part of regular wellness care—and for the first time, specifically included pregnant and postpartum women. For women around the world, depression is the leading cause of disability—especially during pregnancy and postpartum, with nearly 10 percent of pregnant women and new moms experiencing a major depressive episode.

While awareness and acceptance of depression has grown considerably over the past decade, the barriers to addressing it have not. The USPSTF guidelines directly state that depression screenings should include systems that ensure effective treatment and follow-up options, however they do “not consider the costs of providing a service in their assessment.” And for pregnant and new moms, the barriers are even greater—85% of those with postpartum depression don’t receive professional treatment and “few medications have been proved safe without question during pregnancy”—while some are associated with health problems in babies [Mayo Clinic].

Lantern, a Rock Health portfolio company and the leader in evidence-based online mental health wellness services offers a different approach to bridge the accessibility gap in mental healthcare. They offer programs aimed at individuals who exhibit symptoms of anxiety or stress. Accessible online on any device, individuals can work their way through Lantern’s sessions when it’s convenient for them. The self-guided sessions are based on proven cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness techniques, which are presented in a variety of interactive, engaging, and accessible formats. Users are also paired with a personal health coach, whom they can message any time for guidance or validation. In this way, Lantern plans to change the delivery of mental health wellness services so that individuals can take charge of their own emotional well being—and all for $49 per month, a fraction of the cost of traditional therapy.

“I love coaching for Lantern because I believe it’s an effective, cutting edge approach. I find it incredibly rewarding to see my users applying a tool they’ve learned in their everyday lives, or being able to do something they had been too anxious to do before,” said Maya Borgueta, PsyD, Health Coach Manager.

Lantern, which just raised a $17M Series A from healthcare giant UPMC to expand its programs to additional behavioral health issues, plans to reach populations of patients with more complex conditions. “Integrating behavioral health into broader medical care and focusing on prevention for large groups of patients is the only way that we can deliver high-quality, cost-effective mental healthcare,” said Eva Szigethy, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who will be working closely with the Lantern team.