Psychiatry tests out private pay telehealth models

Joining the ranks of American Well, Relay Health and 2nd.MD, tele-psychiatry providers are trying to crack the private-pay telehealth market, according to a report in the New York Times.

Medicare and Medicaid are moving so slowly to reimburse for telehealth services--including counseling--that patients are becoming more willing to pay for some treatment themselves. The Times profiles two emerging players in this market, Raleigh, N.C.-based Cope Today and Sacramento, Calif.-based HealthLink Now. A 2010 startup, Cope Today offers what is becoming a normal setup for direct-to-consumer online care--patients choose their own provider, directly schedule time with him or her, and pay for online visits in 15-minute increments.

HealthLink is bypassing consumers and marketing itself directly to institutional customers such as large employers or hospital emergency rooms, CEO Barb Johnston tells the Times. The sales pitch: Employers who pay for on-site tele-counseling will prevent time lost traveling to and from doctors' offices.

One interesting datapoint from the Times report: The average privately paid telehealth visit runs about 43 minutes, according to Cope Today's CEO, Tania Malik. With the first 10 minutes of the visit free, that equates to 33 minutes. At $35 per 15-minutes, that means the average consumer is paying about $70 for telepsychiatry services.

To learn more:
- read the New York Times article
- check out Telemedicine and e-Health's coverage of telepsychiatry