Ro launches virtual mental health services for anxiety, depression as demand for behavioral health grows

Digital health company Ro is adding virtual mental health services to its growing platform that includes telemedicine, pharmacy distribution and an in-home care network. 

The service, called Ro Mind, launched Tuesday and will initially focus on patients living with generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder, company executives said.

"We are the only company that seamlessly integrates virtual care, pharmacy and in-home care on one platform. We are uniquely positioned to serve physical and mental health, holistically, and provide affordable, high-quality mental health services," Saman Rahmanian, co-founder and chief product officer at Ro, told Fierce Healthcare in an exclusive interview. "To us, offering support for anxiety and depression is an important first step to make mental health a part of the primary care experience."

About 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. lives with a mental health condition, but many Americans go without the care they need due to barriers including stigmatization, provider shortages, a lack of education, complexity in the healthcare system, and the high cost of care or lack of insurance coverage often. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of these existing problems, resulting in huge demand for behavioral health services.

RELATED: Ro will acquire women's health startup Modern Fertility in $225M deal

A survey of Ro’s patients showed that 36% experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression. Of those, nearly all, 93%, indicated that treatment for anxiety and depression was important to them, Rahmanian said.

As a direct-to-patient business model, Ro's mental health services will be offered on a cash-pay basis. The service costs $65 per month and includes access to U.S.-licensed providers, virtual sessions and a customized treatment plan, according to the company.

Ro's providers can diagnose and prescribe FDA-approved prescription treatments for anxiety and depression as well as work with patients to manage those treatments and track their progress on an ongoing basis. Providers will regularly monitor patients’ progress and help promote adherence via a set of required video and asynchronous check-ins.

The virtual sessions are pre-filmed, interactive classes that incorporate video and self-guided exercises to help patients learn more about their mental health and support their treatment plans. Ro Mind’s medical advisory board and other mental health experts developed the online sessions.

Down the road, Ro plans to introduce other services including 1:1 and group therapy and support for other mental health conditions, Rahmanian said.

Anxiety and depression also can be connected to some of the conditions they already receive treatment for through the Ro platform, such as erectile dysfunction, obesity and acne, company executives said.

Ro started out three years ago selling erectile dysfunction medication and hair loss supplements to men. The company has since built out a telehealth company with three online health clinics. It also ventured into the home-based healthcare market with its recent acquisition of software company Workpath.

RELATED: Ro scoops up at-home testing startup Kit on the heels of Workpath, Modern Fertility acquisitions

In three and half years, the company has developed its own provider network, built its own labs and pharmacies and developed its own electronic medical record and pharmacy software as well as in-home care technology.

The startup expanded into at-home testing with the acquisition of Kit. The deal broadens the diagnostics capabilities and lab infrastructure of Ro’s vertically integrated primary care platform.

Kit’s at-home, self-administered testing kits will enable Ro to facilitate primary care for more health conditions and support chronic and preventive care, virtually and in patients’ homes, the company said in a press release.

Ro also moved into reproductive health with plans to acquire Modern Fertility in a deal valued north of $225 million, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Modern Fertility launched in 2017 offering at-home fertility tests for women.

In March, Ro scored a hefty $500 million series D round led by existing investors General Catalyst, FirstMark Capital and TQ Ventures. The company has raised $876 million since its founding in 2017. 

Since 2017, Ro has facilitated more than 6 million digital healthcare visits in nearly every county in the U.S., including 98% of primary care deserts, according to the company.

The company's direct-to-patient model resonates with consumers and represents the future of how care will be delivered, Rahmanian said.

"We're able to remove barriers around stigma, access and cost and put patients back in control of their health. Within this decade, the majority of interactions will be happening in people’s homes. We meet patients where they are and meet them at eye level and we are building this new patient-centric healthcare system," he said.