A Fraught New Frontier in Telehealth: Ketamine
Searching online for alternatives last fall, he found an apparent bargain: $129 a month, ketamine included. He filled out Joyous’s intake questionnaire, had a 20-minute virtual appointment and received a prescription, all in the same night.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even plan on this today, and here we go,’” he said.
Joyous is the new kid on the at-home ketamine block, a reflection of where market forces and scant regulation have taken the fledgling industry. The company has sought to distinguish itself by promoting its tech-driven, customizable treatment plans, but the real draw for many patients is its pricing.
“I signed up for Joyous, if we’re being honest, just because of the price,” said Francisco Llauger, who, like Mr. Curl, found in-clinic treatments effective but too expensive.
Joyous illustrates a reality of how at-home ketamine has evolved: Patients with some of the most serious and complicated mental health challenges are turning to some of the most hands-off treatment, according to The Times’s interviews.
The company has carved out its place with a novel approach: Instead of prescribing higher doses to be taken once or twice a week, Joyous offers lower doses to be taken daily.
Melding the argots of Silicon Valley and self-care, Joyous delivers treatment primarily by text message, replete with exclamation points and emojis. Each morning, patients receive a questionnaire on their phones asking about symptoms and side effects, and each evening, they get a text with the next day’s recommended dose.
“Our algorithms use all of this information to tailor the protocol exactly to your brain and body’s needs,” Sharon Niv, co-founder and chief of customer experience, says in a video.In written responses to questions from The Times, the company said its general treatment approach “has been adapted and used by providers nationally and internationally” for more than five years and its internal data indicated that “this medicine is highly effective for both anxiety and depression.” It declined to provide details about how its technology works.
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