Over the past 4 years, Ro has expanded access to everything from diagnosis to delivery and beyond for over 20 health and wellness conditions. By making high-quality care available when and where patients need it, the US-based telehealth company — valued at $5 billion and backed by more than $800 million from investors including General Catalyst, FirstMark Capital and TQ Ventures — has helped to drive a patient-first revolution via the home that’s predicted to reach $70.19 billion in market value by 2026.
Since 2017, the brand’s disruptive approach to breaking down barriers and de-stigmatising various health concerns and conditions including erectile dysfunction, hair loss, STIs and more has facilitated more than six million digital healthcare visits in nearly every county in the United States, including 98% of primary care deserts. A string of acquisitions including reproductive health company Modern Fertility and at-home diagnostic company Kit has also helped the business to grow its vertically-integrated health platform and fulfil its goal of being the patient’s first port of call for all their healthcare needs.
To propel that mission even further, last year the startup launched Ro Mind — a virtual mental health service that leverages the same patient-centric approach to make treatment for anxiety and depression accessible to those who need it.
By addressing increased demand for mental healthcare and delivering options that bridge barriers to care, as well as connecting to patients’ primary care and overall health journey, Ro Mind aims to put patients back in control of their mental health
To find out more about the innovative service, including its expert-led infrastructure, accessible approach and hows it’s tapping into the values and motivations of the modern consumer, we spoke to Arpan Parikh, MD, MBA, psychiatrist and the brand’s Senior Director of Clinical Experience.
On the growing need for disruptive mental wellness solutions like Ro Mind…..
In the US today, about 1 in 5 adults lives with a mental health condition but many never seek care whether due to factors like stigma, the high cost of care or difficulty navigating our healthcare system. These figures are even more staggering when we’re talking about anxiety and depression. During 2020, a third of Americans started to show signs of clinical anxiety and depression exacerbated by the pandemic.
We saw this trend among Ro’s existing patient base too. Prior to launching Ro Mind, we surveyed a sample of patients and 36% said they experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression. Of those surveyed, nearly all (93%) indicated treatment for anxiety and depression was important to them.
On Ro Mind’s accessible and patient-centric approach…..
Ro’s direct-to-patient approach expands access to high-quality care by removing barriers like stigma, insurance and cost, helping patients who may not otherwise get the care they need.
Nearly 70 percent of patients who turned to Ro for care were seeking help for their condition for the very first time. With Ro Mind, we’re taking that same patient-centric approach to make treatment for anxiety and depression accessible to those who need it — with no insurance or employer-sponsored benefits required.
On creating new pathways to mental wellness support…..
Ro Mind offers support for patients living with anxiety or depression. A patient starts by taking an online assessment that was developed in collaboration with Ro Mind’s Medical Advisory Board and our clinical team. The assessment collects comprehensive information about the patient and presents it to a provider to identify if treatment is suitable via telemedicine. If treatment is appropriate, the provider will set up a 1:1 video call to discuss next steps and create a customised treatment plan. Providers will also regularly monitor the patient’s progress, following up with check-ins.
A cool feature across Ro’s platform is that patients can ask their provider as many questions as they’d like –– they can literally ask thousands of questions. On Ro Mind, patients can also utilise the free, interactive, psychoeducation resources we’ve created called Virtual Sessions.
On tapping into the values and behaviours of the modern consumer…..
The wellness consumer of today has a re-invigorated sense of optimising their mental health and mental wellness. As the stigma against mental health treatment continues to lessen and more people share their experiences, the savvy wellness consumer wants to address symptoms of depression and anxiety that might be holding them back in their personal, professional, or social life.
Ro Mind provides an accessible, affordable, high-quality and digitally-native experience that speaks to the needs and experiences of these consumers. By keeping clinical rigour as our north star and ensuring everything we do is with the patient’s well-being in mind, the wellness consumer of today can be sure that Ro Mind’s accessibility and affordability does not come at the cost of clinical quality.
On challenging the pain points that exist within traditional mental health solutions…..
When I think about the state of mental health treatment in America today, what I see is a tale of two cities: there are really two separate systems through which Americans can access this care in the traditional sense. On the one hand, we have the traditional insurance-based, in-network care that is affordable for most people. The problem with this model is capacity; so many in-network therapists and psychiatrists are completely overwhelmed with patient demand, with long wait times (weeks to months in length) to get an appointment. On the other hand, we have the ‘out-of-network,’ private pay care that solves the capacity issue but at a steep cost – these clinicians are often unaffordable for many Americans.
Where I see the biggest opportunity is using technology to bridge the gap: bringing affordable, accessible, and high-quality care directly to patients. By meeting them where they are (philosophically and literally, through a virtual model), we can deliver high-quality care while keeping the best qualities of each of the two traditional systems: affordability and accessibility.
On the importance of creating a credible infrastructure backed by experts…..
The providers supporting patients on Ro Mind are US-licensed physicians that practice on Ro’s platform. Patients are further supported by a team of nurse practitioners, nurses and patient coordinators. On top of that, we also work closely with notable mental health experts to create educational, self-guided classes called Virtual Sessions.
Building an infrastructure rooted in clinical evidence and expertise is integral to offering safe and effective treatment for patients; this has been our north star from day one. Without this infrastructure, Ro Mind would not exist.
Ro Mind’s Medical Advisory Board, for example, is a group of leading mental health experts who helped design the Ro Mind patient experience, in consultation with our clinical team.
The board truly serves as an extension of our clinical team. They provide seasoned expertise to ensure Ro Mind’s treatment protocols safely and effectively support our patients’ mental health journeys to meet their desired health outcomes.
On the future growth of the telehealth/at-home healthcare category…..
Over the coming years, I see the market for telehealth and at-home healthcare solutions in the mental health space continuing to grow. Firstly, the pandemic showed clinicians (many of whom might have been sceptical) that they could in fact deliver care virtually in a safe and effective manner.
This, paired with patients’ ongoing preferences to continue receiving care virtually is sure to drive ongoing demand for virtual care. While thus far most of the innovation in virtual and at-home care has mostly been in moving the setting of an appointment from in-person to video, in the coming years we will see innovations around us using technology to automate some of the lower complexity tasks, allowing us to fully utilise the scarcest resource in the healthcare system: clinician time.
On Ro Mind’s future trajectory…..
We’ll definitely continue to evolve Ro Mind over time to provide support for other mental health conditions. We recently expanded to offer treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a subtype of depression that affects millions of Americans and often goes undiagnosed and untreated.
Often, symptoms of SAD (like sleeplessness or mood changes) can be experienced when the weather changes in fall and winter. Sometimes people conversely experience SAD with the arrival of spring or summer. Our treatment for SAD enables folks to connect with a provider and if appropriate, they’ll be prescribed medication and will work with our providers to track their progress through a customised care journey and psychoeducation.