Mike Lester founded LifeStance Health with a mission to improve access to mental health services, unlock opportunities for clinicians and staff, and change the conversation about mental health conditions. Below, Mike shares his perspective on the critical importance of removing barriers to mental health care and the keys to LifeStance’s rapid growth.

Tackling the Challenge Head-On

Mental illness affects nearly 50 million – or 1 in every 5 – people in the United States. Its impact is real, rapidly growing and unbounded by demographics or geography. Yet, many millions go undiagnosed or untreated, unable to access or afford quality mental health treatment. This national challenge has a devasting impact on individuals and families, as well as a significant cost to the healthcare system and economy. Its reach has only been exacerbated by COVID and social unrest.

Summit partnered with Mike Lester, the LifeStance team and co-investor Silversmith Partners in 2017 with a shared vision to build a national platform of behavioral health providers and address this growing but often overlooked challenge. The LifeStance model is designed to bring together psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, psychologists and licensed therapists to provide comprehensive outpatient mental health treatment services through telehealth and in-person appointments. An experienced healthcare executive, Mike understands the powerful imperatives of lower healthcare costs, improved patient outcomes and empowered clinicians – and he designed LifeStance to serve all three, building a growth platform focused on addressing the challenges inherent in the system and expanding access to care.

Build with Trust. Build for Growth.

“I’ve had the great fortune over my career to work with some truly outstanding team members – each with deep experience building healthcare services businesses. And it is with this core team of three that we identified the acute need in behavioral health and developed our strategy to enter the market. When you work with a team for over a decade, you know you’re aligned and you’re able to skip a lot of steps as a result. Everyone just puts on whatever hat they need to wear to get the job done.”

“LifeStance’s strategy required a fair amount of capital at the outset so it was equally critical to partner with investors who were also fully aligned with our vision, philosophy and playbook for execution. We found that alignment in working with Summit Partners early on, so much so that we hired an executive from Summit to lead our M&A efforts. This cohesiveness in our strategic direction helped us to scale LifeStance more rapidly into a national platform, which we believe was a key element in creating the kind of value we sought to deliver to patients and clinicians.”

Fix What’s Broken: Rethinking Supply, Demand and Patient Access

“One of the biggest issues in the behavioral health space is a supply-demand issue. Most people think this is driven by a shortage of clinicians. It’s not a shortage of clinicians – as evidenced by LifeStance’s ability to hire more than 300+ clinicians a quarter at our current pace. In reality, the supply-demand issue is rooted in third-party payors not willing to pay enough to smaller and independent clinicians, forcing them to go into a cash-pay market, which many patients can’t afford. This is why the national scale of LifeStance is critical.  When patients can afford mental health treatment, and clinicians are empowered to deliver it, we see a tremendous positive impact to the healthcare system overall. Research has shown that patients being treated for their mental health illnesses have significantly lower overall medical care costs than those that go untreated. By bridging the gap between patients and clinicians, LifeStance is truly on the right side of health care cost containment.”

Embrace Digital Transformation: Lowering Barriers with Telemedicine

“Across industries, technology has made it possible – a requirement, really – to reach customers where they are. This is especially true in healthcare, where geography has always created barriers to care, but it is even more critical in the COVID environment.”

“From its earliest days, LifeStance was built on a digital foundation. Since our founding, we’ve viewed telemedicine as a key component to improving patient access, but COVID dramatically accelerated our timeline. What we had planned to roll-out over the course of about a year, got condensed into a 10-day timeframe. In March 2020, our team of went from an average of 300 telepsych visits per week to more than 40,000 per week – and that number continues to grow. I credit the continued growth of our telemedicine offering to our strong team, to the national network of committed clinicians we have built, and to our collective commitment to delivering high quality care and changing the conversation about mental health care.”

 

 

Today, LifeStance employs more highly trained behavioral health clinicians across 22+ states. LifeStance serves more than one million patient visits annually, both in person and online.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Lester, Founder and CEO of LifeStance Health, is an accomplished health care executive whose professional experience includes 35 years in the multi-site health care services and pharmaceutical life sciences fields.  Prior to founding LifeStance Health, Mike was the founder and CEO of Accelecare Wound Centers, a comprehensive wound care and disease management company. Prior to that, Mike was a Venture Partner at Bain Capital and SV Life Sciences, and was the founder and CEO of three companies in the clinical research, home infusion and pharmacy management markets, respectively. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from the University of Texas.

Stories from the Climb

At Summit, it’s the stories that inspire us – the problems being solved and the different paths each team takes to grow a business. Stories from the Climb is a series dedicated to celebrating and sharing the challenges of building a growth company. For more Stories from the Climb and other Summit perspectives, please visit Summit’s 2020 Year in Review.