Mental health apps are changing strategies

A deluge of mental health startups has flooded the market. Now, some are pivoting strategies.

Sometimes looking for a therapist is so frustrating, you need a therapist just to talk about that.

In the US, patients face financial barriers, confusing insurance systems, too few providers, and long wait times.

Tech startups have tried to make it easier, receiving $7.8B in funding over the last two years, per Business Insider.

In 2020, the American Psychological Association reported there were as many as 20k mental health apps — online talk therapy, meditation, journaling, etc. But few are FDA approved, and hurdles remain:

  • Many don’t accept insurance, remaining unaffordable for some patients.
  • Some cost-cutting efforts come at the expense of care (e.g., shorter visits).
  • Cerebral drew attention from the DOJ over allegations that it was overprescribing drugs, like Adderall.

Additionally, the costs for a startup to acquire a patient for D2C care has skyrocketed from ~$150 in 2018 to $500-$1k today, thanks to competitors flooding the market and Apple’s privacy updates.

What’s next?

Startups are changing their strategies, relying on referrals over expensive digital ads and targeting employers, who pay a fee for employee access, over individual patients.

Example: Talk therapy app Ginger merged with meditation app Headspace last summer. CEO Russell Glass told BI the company is now targeting enterprises, not individuals.

Others, like Alma, are working with therapists to help them accept insurance. Many providers don’t, citing lower pay and more paperwork than with out-of-pocket clients, but as of August, Alma had 8k professionals on its platform.

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