December 2, 2022

A Middleton health care startup that sends clinicians to patients’ homes is moving to increase access to mental health treatment options as the state ranks low in available providers.

Fast-growing Pivotal Health, founded in 2020, announced this month it partnered with two companies that offer mental health resources online and in person across the country — Madison’s own startup DotCom Therapy and Arizona-based LifeStance Health.

Pivotal’s doctors are being trained with the help of a psychiatric expert to assess patients’ mental health concerns during in-home visits, and can refer people to one of the two companies based on therapy and medication needs.

Patients of Pivotal Health living in Dane, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties with varying types of health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, can take advantage of the partnerships. Out-of-pocket costs apply if a patient is not covered by a carrier, CEO Sal Braico said.

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After a patient requests an appointment with Pivotal, which can be done through the startup’s website or by calling a toll-free number, a visit will be set within a matter of days for a 20- to 30-minute increment.

To date, Pivotal has treated 2,500 patients in the Madison and Milwaukee area and has 15 employees. As early as last winter, the number of patients seen was in the hundreds.

The partnerships announcement comes as nonprofit NAMI Wisconsin recently reported that just over 2 million people in the state (37% of the population) live in a community without adequate access to mental health professionals.

It also comes after Pivotal’s nine clinicians all noticed over the last few months how an increasing number of patients were opening up to them about ailments ranging from anxiety to depression during visits, Braico said, adding that Pivotal was attracted to both DotCom and Lifestance per their respective ranges of timely services and expanding presence in the U.S.

That’s likely because Pivotal Health doctors are able to spend more time with patients in their home compared to an office setting — an average of 45 minutes versus 15, said chief medical officer Andrew Culp, who has a 15-year background in emergency health care.

The startup originally launched to provide patients with urgent care in the home — minor injuries, allergic reactions, influenza and even COVID.

Pivotal is actively educating its doctors on how to diagnose and treat mental health ailments in adults, Culp said, adding the company could eventually expand to treat mental health concerns in children.

The startup is also looking for additional investment funding, having garnered $1.3 million last December amid its expansion into the Milwaukee area.

‘A no brainer’

DotCom, founded in 2015, has 300 employees and provides mental health services to patients up to age 21 in several states through video conferencing. The Madison startup received a $13 million investment in the fall of 2021.

The funding covered DotCom’s expansion into additional schools and health systems, as well as the company’s move to start allowing patients to use insurance.

“DotCom Therapy started exploring a partnership with Pivotal last year,” said Rachel Robinson, DotCom founder, in an email. “Pivotal Healthcare was looking for a partner to provide quality therapy access for the kids and families they served. With both companies holding a strong client base in Wisconsin and an alignment working with health plans to provide in-network coverage, the partnership was a no brainer.”

LifeStance, also launched in 2017, offers online and in-person psychiatry and therapy services and takes most major insurance carriers in the states it offers services. The company has 200 providers in Wisconsin.

“We believe that a warm handoff from a primary care provider to a trusted mental health provider meaningfully increases the number of patients who actually receive care for their underlying conditions and are pleased to partner with Pivotal in enhancing access for Pivotal patients,” said Robert Nohr, LifeStance operations director in an email.

https://madison.com/business/with-partnerships-middleton-startup-moves-to-tackle-gaps-in-access-to-mental-health-care/article_d2fd8b76-bc85-569f-aa9d-8852f853e12c.html