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Pittsburgh Psychiatrist Starts Telemedicine Company


A Pittsburgh-area doctor is going digital as part of a growing trend of psychiatrists offering their services online.

“Just log in on your phone, get a face-to-face video assessment on a HIPAA- compliant secure platform,” said Dr. Matthew Keener, who created Blackbird Health. “You don’t have to drive all the way across town, you don’t have to wait in a waiting room.”

The American Telemedicine Association says more than half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine.

Blackbird Health is a virtual-first network to help young adults with anxiety, depression and other issues. Keener’s last job was working for the big telemedicine company Doctor on Demand, based in San Francisco.

“Having done that I began to see inside the machinery and mechanics of how easily it might be to better connect people to teams that deliver emotional health help,” Keener said.

The Kaiser Family Foundation says there’s a shortage of mental healthcare in about half of the U.S. While Pennsylvania does better than most of the country, the need is particularly great for young people with mental health issues.

“There just aren’t enough providers that are skilled at dealing with 17-year-olds who’ve had trauma or 25-year-olds with bipolar disorder,” Keener said.

Blackbird offers individual appointments with psychiatrists in video or face-to-face. Blackbird’s also using the online platform to keep people out of the doctor’s office by offering training in practices to improve mental health skills--like attentiveness.

Keener says the services Blackbird Health offers are like a three-story building, where training and information are at the ground floor.

“You go up to that sort of second floor as it were and say, ‘Well, I want some training and support.’ It’s one month, $75. Meet 3 times a week online. And there’s one in person, real life meetup. Moving up to the third floor, as it were, if somebody says, “I want to see a certified psychologist.’ Those groups are around $35 a session.”

Keener got the name from Blackbird Health in part from the Beatles’ song, Blackbird. One line in that song is, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” Blackbird Health hopes to see young people fly despite their broken wings.

Upcoming Tech Events in and around Pittsburgh:

To learn more about medical innovation, consider a road trip to Cleveland, where the 2015 Medical Innovation Summit is taking place Oct. 25-28. With the theme of ‘Memory. Mood. Movement,’ the 13th Annual Summit will convene 1,700 decision makers from around the world to discuss the role of innovation in the ongoing transformation of healthcare and highlight the latest market-ready innovations in the neurosciences field.

The Pittsburgh Technology Council hosts Tech 50, honoring the 50 fastest growing tech companies in the region on Thursday, Oct. 29 at the Wyndham Grand Hotel.