Ginger, a digital health startup that lets users chat with a mental health coach, raised $50 million in funding in a series D round. Advance Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners led the funding round, with participation from Cigna Ventures, Kaiser Permanente Ventures, and LinkedIn Executive Chairman Jeff Weiner.

David ibnAle, a founding partner with Advance Venture Partners, and Steve Kraus, a partner with Bessemer Venture Partners, will both join Ginger’s board. To date, the company has raised $120 million.

The San Francisco-based startup connects users with coaches through a text-based chat. They can’t provide the same services as a therapist, but they can send users exercises and encourage them to pursue good sleeping habits and meditation, for example.

For patients who would benefit from more care, Ginger can connect them to a video chat with a healthcare provider. The company contracts with psychiatrists and therapists that then work with its coaches.

Like many telehealth startups, Ginger has seen a surge in visits since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the first week of July, it saw a 125% increase in use of its coaching service compared to its averages before the pandemic.

“The goal of this system is to solve for the supply-demand imbalance that exists in mental health,” Ginger CEO Russell Glass said in a phone interview. “Even pre-Covid, there are far more people that have a need that can access it today. It can take weeks to months.”

The service is currently only available to users whose employer or health plan include Ginger as a covered benefit. The company says it has 200 clients, including Delta Air Lines, Sanofi and Chegg. Its insurance partnerships include Optum Behavioral Health, Anthem California and Aetna Resources for Living.

Ginger was initially created in 2011 by two MIT researchers, Anmol Madan and Karan Singh, who started off with the idea of using cell phone activity to predict users’ mental health. For example, if someone was depressed, they might not communicate with others like they normally do, or their daily patterns of going to the work, the gym or the grocery store might change. Novant Health, Kaiser Permanente and 20 other health systems partnered on this early concept.

Since then, the company has pivoted to focus more on providing health coaching and therapy services.  It still uses information “for proprietary analysis and development of personalized behavioral profiles,” according to its privacy policy.

Ginger is one of a number of startups providing mental health services using digital tools. Competitor Lyra Health raised $75 million  earlier this year, and struck a partnership with Starbucks. And UnitedHealth’s Optum subsidiary was reportedly planning to acquire mental health startup AbleTo for $470 million.

Photo credit: Microne, Getty Images



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