Breakthrough telemental health screenshots

Breakthrough is an online telehealth platform that brings together patients, providers, and insurers so that people with mental health needs can quickly, conveniently, and privately access help in their own homes


Thanks to Silicon Valley Health 2.0 (one of my favorite Meetups), I had a chance to listen to Mark Goldenson, the CEO of Breakthrough, describe his company. The thing that impressed me the most is that he really understands the industry—he is not trying to sell into the insurance industry (every digital health entrepreneur’s dream). Though he has sold into the insurance industry, including some big ones (Aetna, CareFirst, and Blue Shield of California).


What is Breatkthrough?

Breakthrough is an online telehealth platform that brings together patients, providers (therapists), and insurers so that people with mental health care needs can quickly, conveniently, and privately access help in their own homes. According to Mark, Breakthrough is a win-win-win. Patients win because they can preview many of the providers by watching their videos and, if they are in a mental health shortage area (of which there are many) they can access therapists who would be too inconvenient for them to travel to. Providers win because they can expand their practice and get help with billing via Breakthrough’s practice management system. Insurer’s win because they can offer a larger network and help people get timely care so their conditions don’t progress requiring costly ER visits and/or hospitalizations.


Is It Safe and Effective?

Mark didn’t mention in his brief presentation any formal studies or peer-reviewed publications, so I can only report the stats he provided (by the way, validation of this sort is what is achingly missing for many digital health interventions). Here are Mark’s self-reported stats:

  • They average 7 sessions/patient (somewhat lower than 8-11 sessions for traditional care)
  • 85% of their patients re-book another appointment
  • 80% report improvement
  • 60% say that Breakthrough made care possible

There is a median time of 2 hours to talk to a provider and a median time of 4 days to get an appointment (don’t know why he is reporting median vs. average).

All of the providers are licensed in the state(s) in which they are practicing. And, all are credentialed via the insurer’s usual credentialing process. Therapists can practice across state lines (great for night owls who want care in the middle of the night), but only if they have licenses in every state in which they are providing care.

If a patient has insurance, the only cost they incur is their co-pay. Insurance picks up the rest. I am assuming a plan’s benefit design (including any limitations on the number of visits) applies to the care received through Breakthrough the same as it does if access via traditional care. It’s best to check this out with your insurer to be sure.


How Does Breakthrough Make Money?

They wisely are charging the entity with the deepest pockets…the insurer. They charge plans for the use of their technology and access to their network. They do not make money off of patient or provider fees.


Want to Learn More?

Watch the video to hear Mark explain (with passion) what Breakthrough is all about:

UPDATE: Breakthrough was acquired by MDLive in 11/14. You can read about it here.



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