Talkspace, Bicycle Health team up to cross-refer patients, expand access to virtual care

Talkspace, an online therapy company, has teamed up with Bicycle Health, a virtual opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment provider, to expand access to care for their patient populations through referrals.

For Talkspace patients, the partnership will increase access to OUD specialty care, including medications for OUD (MOUD). For Bicycle Health patients, the partnership will increase access to therapists specializing in areas outside substance use disorder, including marriage and family therapy or synchronous therapeutic chat. 

Talkspace has a network of more than 5,000 licensed clinicians across all 50 states that have treated more than a million people in need of therapy. Bicycle patients across at least 32 states will be able to take advantage of the partnership. Though Bicycle has a presence in 48 states, its work in some involves subcontractors like the Federal Bureau of Prisons, where patients are unlikely to be referred to an external provider like Talkspace, executives said.

“Our mission is to make high-quality mental health care accessible to all,” Natalie Cummins, chief business officer at Talkspace, said in the announcement. “By expanding our partnership with best-in-class care specialists like Bicycle Health, our patients can easily access evidenced-based treatment for substance use disorders.”

An estimated 6 million to 7 million adolescents and adults in the U.S. live with OUD. Though not all of them may use or need treatment, the lack of access to care—particularly MOUD and harm reduction services—is well established. This includes lower rates of available care in rural areas and racial inequalities in services. In 2017, nearly half of U.S. counties lacked a publicly listed MOUD provider. 

Collaborations between telehealth-based providers centralize access to care and make it more accessible, Talkspace and Bicycle said.

“We are both providing quite complementary services,” Bicycle founder and CEO Ankit Gupta told Fierce Healthcare. “The overlap is what makes it really exciting.” 

The two companies share many values and similar therapeutic care models, from a belief in integrating within the healthcare system to a focus on chronic care management and longitudinal, whole-person care. They also boast “robust” insurance coverage, per Gupta, with Talkspace covering 30 million lives and Bicycle covering more than 100 million lives. 

To meet the mental health needs of its patients, Bicycle clinicians can prescribe medications for conditions like depression and anxiety. It has built some wraparound services for its patients, though Gupta acknowledged they are met with capacity challenges and are more lightweight than traditional therapy.

“We have a very small team of licensed clinical social workers that are cross-licensed in all of the states that we’re in, but that team isn’t able to provide the capacity needed for the thousands of patients we have,” Gupta said.

Bicycle therapists use motivational interviewing to understand patient goals, and its growing team of recovery coaches is available for case management and support between appointments. Its team can take on urgent or acute mental health needs, but Talkspace will greatly enhance capacity and the range of therapeutic modalities available. 

Not every patient will need it, Gupta said, but the case for therapy in this patient population is strong. “Outcomes are better when you couple that with therapy,” Gupta said. 

There are several benefits to formalizing such a partnership, Gupta said. Each respective partner can ensure patients are able to get appointments, referrals are accepted by the right team and no one falls through the cracks. It also means aligning on patient experience and outcomes goals. 

Additionally, Takspace is offering self-pay Bicycle patients a $100 discount for the first month of therapy.