A Post-Demo Day Look at Three Rock Health Startups-WeSprout, Pipette, and BrainBot
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they’d be worried about any startup that tied its growth plans to deals with insurers. But Panchsadram says he’s hopeful, given the huge costs payers face when post-surgery patients get readmitted due to complications.
For now, Pipette is starting small, negotiating with HMOs and private insurers over services for limited indications such as ACL (anterior crutiate ligament) surgery at two pilot hospitals (UCSF and the Mayo Clinic). Later it hopes to expand to knee replacement, then orthopedic surgery in general, and then gastrointestinal and transplant surgery. “For us, the big piece is getting the trials started and getting it in patients’ hands, because once that happens, it means there is an institution that believes that there is a possibility that this will work,” says Panchasadram.
BrainBot: Bringing a Moment of Zen to Mobile Devices
Until recently, EEG hardware for measuring brain activity cost $20,000 to $30,000 and was available only to hospitals and researchers. But now companies like Neurosky are selling EEG headsets for under $100, creating room for new consumer software applications that incorporate real-time brainwave signals. BrainBot is putting the technology to use in the area of mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR. Its mobile app uses data from the Neurosky MindWave to monitor attention levels in people attempting to meditate.
Co-founder Rohan Dixit, a former researcher in the neurology department at Stanford Medical Center, says he took the Neurosky device with him on a recent trip to India, where he used it to measure the base EEG levels of monks during their meditation practice. Together with co-founder James Levy, a former engineer at Android app developer Stickybits, Dixit used that data to build an app that can tell the difference between a state of focus or mindfulness and the all-too-common counterpoint—the state of wandering attention that some have called “monkey mind.” When the app detects this wandering state in the user’s brain, it sounds a chime, and a gentle voice recites, “Notice what’s happening. Relax and gently return to your breath.”
Meditation can be as effective as antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy at treating anxiety and mood disorders, and Dixit says that a growing number of health plans are reimbursing patients for MBSR therapy. But the startup will probably opt to sell its app directly to consumers, rather than trying to work through healthcare organizations or insurers. “Everyone who can afford a smartphone can afford our technology,” says Dixit. “We have the luxury of being able to target people who are improving their health outside of the clinical context.”
Still, with all the contacts the startup has made through Rock Health, the company could go either way. “On one side, we could make it a game and focus exclusively on the consumer side, where it’s all about getting users,” says Levy. “On the other side, we could do clinical trials and deploy in hospitals. What Rock Health has been helpful with is helping us realize that we are at a point in history where you can actually walk the line between those two.”
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