Iris Telehealth focuses on hospitals, health centers with virtual psychiatry

Andy Flanagan, CEO of Iris Telehealth, says he is optimistic about his company’s prospects, largely due to the pressing need for mental health services nationwide.

Iris is meeting a critical need for providers who see overwhelming numbers of patients in need of mental health services, he said.

Based in Austin, Texas, Iris offers virtual psychiatry and mental health services to hospitals, health systems and community health centers. Iris is currently working with nearly 200 community hospitals and health centers.

“It’s about redesigning the entire engagement model for behavioral health,” Flanagan said General Health Director in a recent interview.

“We are one of the very few who do what we do on a large scale,” he said.

Flanagan spoke with General Health Director about Iris and her work with hospitals and health systems.

“Iris is making a difference by partnering with corporate health systems and community mental health resources to integrate the patient journey with the right doctor, at the right time, all virtually,” said Flanagan. (See excerpts from our conversation with Andy Flanagan in this video. The story continues below the video.)

Focus on serious mental illness

Although Iris offers services for patients with anxiety and depression, the company’s main focus is on people with more serious problems.

“Iris focuses primarily on severe mental illness and, of course, we address low acuity therapy for stress, anxiety and mild depression,” said Flanagan. “The beginning of the spectrum of severe mental illness allows us to be able to manage escalations, without delay, without a transition of care, and these gaps lead to unfortunate escalation and the use of ED.”

Iris psychiatrists work with hospitals and health systems to assess patient risks.

Hospitals and health systems are seeing more patients with behavioral health problems in the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers say they are increasingly concerned about the costs of long-term mental health care, which they have identified as the main health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey by the Business Group on Health.

Rapid growth

Founded in 2013, Iris has experienced substantial growth and now employs 500 people. Flanagan expects the company to continue to increase its workforce.

In April, the company announced it had secured an additional $ 40 million in funding from investors, including Concord Health Partners and Columbia Pacific Advisors.

“Iris has an impressive experience working with health systems and other providers to improve behavioral health services by facilitating access to the appropriate level of care,” said James Olsen, founder and managing partner of Concord Health Partners in April. “We are thrilled to support Iris, expand its reach and further enhance its technology capabilities.”

Last week, Magazine Inc has included Iris Telehealth in its annual “Inc. 5000 ”rankings of the fastest growing private companies in America. The company recorded a three-year growth in turnover of 109%.

“Since our founding in 2013, our mission has been to expand high-quality virtual behavioral health services to those who need it most,” Flanagan said in a statement on the Inc. 5000 ranking. “This recognition is a testimony of that mission and the dedication of our team in making it a reality “.

Balance resources

Iris is working with hospitals to balance the demand they are receiving from the community, and telemedicine can provide more efficient use of resources, Flanagan said.

“A digital-based behavioral health strategy through telemedicine can not only clinically deliver the same results, but more importantly, balance resources practically immediately,” said Flanagan.

“So if there’s a no-show, or there’s an escalation, in a different part of the county, across the state, we can actually redirect a doctor, in real time, to meet that acuity-based clinical need. “, he said. “That’s why we focus on the right patient and the right doctor, at the right time.”

Telemedicine also helps providers address the apparent shortage of behavioral health professionals, Flanagan said.

“We can redirect a doctor virtually within 15 seconds from facility A to facility B,” he said. “There is no wasted time. You can’t do it physically. When you have such a limited supply, you need that kind of flexibility. “

Iris also considers her mission to help integrate behavioral health with other health needs, Flanagan said.

“When it comes to a population that has severe mental illness, they also have comorbidities,” he said. “The evidence shows that it is important to think about the patient’s journey in oncology, or cardiology, in terms of behavioral health, as part of the entire health history.”

“When we step into a partner, we call partner clients, we are actually thinking about how we integrate behavioral health resources where the patient needs them into some of these lines of service for a holistic strategy,” he said.

Iris is owned and operated by doctors, so the company isn’t solely driven by big business, Flanagan said.

Still, Iris is profitable, he said. “We think of ourselves as a medical group,” she said. “We seek to be a responsible, profitable and reliable partner over a long period of time.”

“We’re doing the hard work”

Given the shortage of mental health professionals, Iris expects a growing demand. While Flanagan said he is proud of Iris’ success and growth, he said more companies are needed that address serious mental health issues.

During the first three quarters of 2021, pediatric hospitals recorded a 14% increase in mental health emergencies and a 42% increase in suicide and self-harm, compared to the same period in 2019, according to data from the American Psychological Association. .

Behavioral health advocates have pushed Congress to invest more in developing more doctors. Mitch Prinstein, chief science officer of the American Psychological Association, outlined the severity of the crisis before a Senate panel in February.

“To say this is a mental health crisis isn’t enough,” Prinstein said. “This is an accumulation of decades of neglect, stigma and unequal treatment of mental health over physical health.”

Flanagan said the company is focusing on creating sustainable health programs for hospitals and health systems.

“We’re doing the hard work,” he said. “We think doing the hard work will help solve difficult problems.”

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