Health system UPMC leads $17M financing for mental health wellness services app

Lantern app--Courtesy of Lantern

Lantern aims to put mental health services and professionals at the patient's fingertips with its online and mobile programs in cognitive behavioral therapy. To help it do so, Pittsburgh-based healthcare provider and payer UPMC is leading a $17 million investment and it also will partner with the San Francisco-based startup to conduct pilot testing of its approach.

In early testing through Stanford University and Washington University in St. Louis, Lantern's body image program was able to reduce eating disorders by 50%. The program can also help to prevent the onset of eating disorders in high-risk individuals.

Lantern's tools start with an assessment of self-reported patient thoughts and behaviors to find relevant situations, symptoms and emotions. Then daily exercises that are personalized to patient needs are put in place to help identify and restructure negative thoughts as well as to practice useful life skills. Finally, Lantern offers anytime access to professional coaches who hold advanced degrees in relevant fields.

"We are excited about reaching more people with mental health issues through this readily accessible, scalable, and cost-effective platform," said UPMC Enterprises President Tal Heppenstall in a statement. "This partnership is an excellent example of our mission at UPMC Enterprises: finding creative solutions and technologies to solve some of the most challenging problems in health care." UPMC Enterprises is the commercialization arm of UPMC that headed the Lantern investment.

UPMC physicians will work with Lantern on pilots to expand its programs into addressing additional behavioral health issues, potentially in patient populations with more complex conditions.

"Integrating behavioral health into broader medical care and focusing on prevention for large groups of patients is the only way that we can deliver high-quality, cost-effective mental healthcare," said Dr. Eva Szigethy, associate professor of psychiatry, pediatrics, and medicine at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who works with Lantern.

UPMC insures and cares for more than 2.8 million patients via 20 hospitals and about 3,500 physicians. An estimated 18% of American adults have behavioral health problems with depression and anxiety disorders among the top drivers of medical costs in primary care. Two-thirds of primary care physicians report difficulty referring patients to behavioral health services.

"A large part of UPMC's appeal to Lantern is its focus on disease prevention, a sharp contrast to the fee-for-service model that currently dominates the behavioral health landscape. Because of our shared focus on prevention to solve health challenges before they even arise or manifest, Lantern and UPMC are the perfect match," said Lantern co-founder and CEO Alejandro Foung.

Also participating in the financing are existing Lantern investors including Mayfield Fund, SoftTech Venture Capital and Stanford University.

- here is the announcement