In the United States, 17.6 million organizations employ 150 million people (see NAICS Counts By Employees and Employment In The United States From 2011 To 2021). Many of those employers provide health insurance for their employees. Employer health insurance covers 56% of Americans—and over half of employers have digital or virtual solutions in place for behavioral health. Currently 66% of employers provide tele-behavioral health services through their health insurance carrier, 14% partner with a third-party telehealth provider, and 10% partner with a third-party behavioral health provider organization (see What Chronic Conditions Are Top Of Mind For Employers?).
But how employers are addressing employee behavioral health needs and social support needs is changing. The whole concept of “employee assistance” has shifted over the past decade (see Shifting EAP Field, Shifting Opportunities). And a more recent development is that the digital behavioral health organizations have made significant inroads in changing how employers meet employee needs. One company that has found a robust niche in serving employers is Lyra Health.
We recently spoke to Sean McBride, Vice President of Partnerships at Lyra Health about the company’s plans. Mr. McBride is a keynote speaker at our upcoming session, The Future Of Mental Health Service Delivery: Up Close & Personal With Ginger, Lyra, & Talkspace, on June 16 at the OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute.
Lyra was founded in 2015 by David Ebersman, Facebook’s former Chief Financial Officer with the goal to “make it easier to find and get treatment” through personalized smart technology. The company’s services are available exclusively through direct employer partnerships and include mental health guided self-care, coaching, therapy, medication management, and mental wellness tools for employees as well as their families (including children). Services cover the spectrum of mental illnesses and addiction disorders from “stress to suicidality” and are offered in person and virtually through live messaging, telephone, digital exercises, video lessons, and support between sessions. As part of that service offering, Lyra offers face-to-face onsite as well as virtual training and group sessions in the workplace—helping members with personal issues and enabling managers to recognize and support employees who need help.
Lyra now covers more than 2 million consumers through corporate contracts with clients like eBay, Facebook, Genentech, Google, Morgan Stanley, Pinterest, Starbucks, Uber, and Zoom. Lyra’s latest $187 million Series E financing round in January 2021 included Oprah Winfrey as an investor (see Lyra Health Welcomes Oprah Winfrey As An Investor). The company doubled its valuation in just a few months prior to this latest round of fundraising, and is now valued at $2.3 billion.
There were a few notable areas of our discussion with Mr. McBride. The first was the expansive nature of their clinical service network. Lyra has a hybrid network with both virtual and face-to-face services. And there is a broad range of professionals available to consumers—coaches, therapists, psychiatrists, and internal medicine physicians. Because of the expansive network, they offer different levels of care—coaching for mild issues and stress, therapy for moderate conditions, and psychiatric help for acute conditions and medication management. They employ care navigators to help consumers navigate the care process, find providers, and remain engaged in treatment. The company also makes it possible for consumers to integrate the care they receive from Lyra with their primary care providers outside the network by enabling electronic information sharing between providers with consumer consent.
The second was their ability to assess consumer needs and match them to clinical professionals in their network. Lyra matches consumers to professionals based on their clinical needs and personal preferences. Mr. McBride said, “We recognize that mental health is a wide spectrum, and our ability to serve that spectrum is an important differentiator. We’re not trying to replace clinicians with a bot, we’re trying to use technology to make it easier for somebody to find a great mental health provider who’s right for them, and who’s available, and then to help that provider really deliver the best care possible.” Lyra uses validated clinical measures, such as the PHQ-9 and the GAD-7, to match consumers to the right level of care and the right clinical professionals at the outset.
Lyra’s extensive network offers members choice of clinical professionals, matching their preferences for cultural, language, gender, LGBTQ status, and therapeutic specializations, including substance abuse, couples therapy, and child and adolescent mental health. Through Lyra, individuals can quickly gain access to care—appointments with Lyra therapists are available in as little as 24 hours or in just a week, versus the average of 21 days’ wait from many provider organizations.
Lyra has oversight and quality assurance processes in place to ensure that as needed, a consumer can transition from coaching to therapy or the psychiatry program. And given that they have clinical professionals in their network who offer in-person and virtual care, Lyra can provide flexible options to consumers who may want to see a clinical professional in person sometimes but conduct sessions by video or text at other times.
Lyra touts their clinical outcomes as a benefit of their program design. They report an 83% rate of reduced symptoms for consumers and improved functioning in all aspects of life. (For employers, this has resulted in 70% of employees showing improved productivity, 20% reduction in therapy and prescription claims, and 50% decrease in turnover rates). How is Lyra able to achieve these results? Mr. McBride pointed to the company’s exclusive use of evidence-based practices endorsed by the American Psychological Association and vetted by their own clinical quality team. Every provider organization that applies to join Lyra’s network must go through a rigorous quality assessment and demonstrate use of evidence-based practices.
When asked whether Lyra plans to include Medicaid and Medicare, Mr. McBride said while it’s too early to disclose details, “Our focus as a business from the beginning has been in trying to figure out the fastest pathway to make our services available to as many people as possible. And so that’s our lens to decide which partnerships can give us access to the most people while enabling us to innovate and transform how mental health care is delivered. We’d love to be working with every player and sponsor of health care out there.”
What is next for Lyra? They recently introduced global offerings to deliver mental health care resources and session parity for global employers and their employees. They also plan to introduce new clinical offerings with digital tools for consumers with more severe or complex needs, including alcohol abuse, suicidality, severe depression, depression, and anxiety. In addition to those initiatives, Mr. McBride spoke of “digital content engagement” as their next frontier. They are investing heavily in building a proprietary suite of digital tools and content to provide “blended care therapy” or “blended care coaching.” The clinical professional might see the consumer once a week as they normally would but also assign digital tools, interventions, and exercises that consumers can leverage between sessions. Mr. McBride said, “We’ve seen this to be a really transformative care model where we can see clinical improvement with patients in 50% less time than it would take if you’re just seeing a therapist. The new tools are all about learning skills to manage emotions and behaviors, and if we can get folks to practice the skills that they’re learning between therapy or coaching sessions, we can help really accelerate the pace at which people improve.”
For traditional provider organizations, there are a couple of implications as Lyra and other virtual behavioral health organizations continue to grow their employer footprint. First, they will offer significant competition for direct employee services, but the opportunities for supervisor/manager consultation remain. Second is to explore opportunities to join their employer networks. Lyra is looking to grow its network of provider organizations and welcomes applications through its website (see Apply To Become A Lyra Provider) from group practices as well as individuals to be part of its network to get referrals. They get hundreds of applications every month and have a rigorous selection process. Mr. McBride said, “Our North Star is making sure that our selected providers are trained in and applying evidence based treatments, in a way that meets our clinical standards. We also ask that our providers are comfortable that we’re going to be using third party and validated clinical assessments throughout treatment to assess whether their patients are seeing symptom reduction.”
In any case, the impact of organizations like Lyra on referrals and revenue from employer organizations will be a major factor in the post-pandemic market.
For more on market competition and tips on how to stack up, check out these resources in The OPEN MINDS Circle Library:
- The 2021 “Next Normal” Forecast: Four Key Questions
- How Virtual Behavioral Health Organizations “Fit” In the Health Care Ecosystem
- More Mental Health advertising, Less Mental health Stigma?
- More Deals, More Disruption, More Pressure
- The New Retail In Health Care
- Why All Care Will Become Concierge Care
- Using Analytics to Personalize Consumer Service: Lessons From Netflix & Amazon
- Expanding Your Digital Toolbox With Chatbots
- Are You Ready For A Prescription For Treatment Tech?
- Strategic Advantage Through Technology: Planning A Tech-Enabled Future – The OPEN MINDS Management Newsletter, March 2021
And for even more, join us virtually from June 14 to 16 for the 2021 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute. Registration is open to all and free to Elite members of OPEN MINDS Circle. On June 16, 2021, Karan Singh, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Ginger, Rachel O’Neill, Ph.D., Clinical Director at Talkspace, and Sean McBride, Vice President of Partnerships at Lyra Health will discuss innovations in behavioral health care at the keynote panel, The Future Of Mental Health Service Delivery: Up Close & Personal With Ginger, Lyra, & Talkspace and take your questions.