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UPMC Partners with Mental Health Startup; Leads $17M Funding Round

February 15, 2016
by Heather Landi
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UPMC Enterprises, the commercialization arm of Pittsburgh-based integrated health system UPMC, is partnering with mental health startup Lantern and last week led a $17 million funding round in support of the company's mental health app platform.

The San Francisco-based startup provides online mental health wellness services and UPMC’s investment was joined by previous Lantern investors, including Mayfield Fund, SoftTech Venture Capital and Stanford University.

UPMC will partner with Lantern to leverage its platform within a variety of clinical settings and conditions, according to a joint press release.

“We are excited about reaching more people with behavioral health issues through this readily accessible, scalable, and cost-effective platform,” Tal Heppenstall, president of UPMC Enterprises, said 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 healthcare.”

Behavioral health problems are pressing health issues facing the country, affecting more than 18 percent of adults. Depression and anxiety disorders are among the top five drivers of medical costs in primary care settings—and are even more common and costly among those with chronic medical conditions. Given the shortage of mental health workers, two-thirds of primary care physicians report difficulty referring patients to behavioral health services, according to Lantern.

UPMC clinicians will work with Lantern on pilots aimed at expanding its programs to additional behavioral health issues and potentially to populations of patients 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,” Eva Szigethy, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, pediatrics, and medicine at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said.

Alejandro Foung, Lantern co-founder and CEO, said UPMC represents the “ideal partner.” “UPMC has a unique view into the continuum of care, from insuring more than 2.8 million individuals, to administering care preventatively and when patients need it most through its more than 20 hospitals and 3,500 employed physicians,” Foung said. “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.”

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