Originally appeared in LancasterOnline, written by Chad Umble.
Mental health technology startup NeuroFlow has had some encouraging early success.
Launched in 2016 as a system of reminders, rewards and biometric feedback meant to keep patients engaged in their treatment, Philadelphia-based NeuroFlow has raised $1.25 million from investors, hired 12 full-time employees and is actively being used in 75 clinics.
But this summer, NeuroFlow co-founder and chief operating officer Adam Pardes will be spending a lot of time in the city where he hopes the company can get its big break: Lancaster.
NeuroFlow is one of two companies in the inaugural class at the Smart Health Innovation Lab, a market adoption accelerator for health care technologies that is a joint venture among Aspire Ventures, Capital BlueCross, Clio Health and Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.
The 12-week program is designed to help companies refine their products for the marketplace by working directly with insurers and health care providers who will be using it.
“They’re working at the ground level with us, which has been hugely valuable,” Pardes said. “Everyone is very bought in.”
The Smart Health Innovation Lab occupies 16,000 square feet on the second floor of the Wells Fargo building, 100 N. Queen St.
The sleek, new office space includes areas where startups can demonstrate and sharpen their offerings in spaces that resemble a hospital room, physical therapy gym, clinician’s office and a studio apartment.
Upon successful completion of the 12-week program, technologies will receive Smart Health certification, entry into partnering health systems and a path to payer reimbursement.
The 27-year-old Pardes said the program is unique in that its sponsors are helping with the details about how they would actually like to use NeuroFlow, while also including input from an insurance company, which often can be a missing piece.
“To really launch into a health care system you need to have buy-in from the insurance folks, and that was not something that we had,” Pardes said. “That was basically the next challenge for us to overcome, so this was perfect for that because it puts everyone at the same table and with aligned incentives.”
Keeping patients engaged
Pardes, who grew up in Abington, outside of Philadelphia, was a bioengineering doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania when he met Chris Molaro, a former Army captain who has been vocal on veteran mental health and suicide prevention.
Working with Molaro, who was getting his MBA at Penn’s Wharton School, Pardes helped design a software system that could help patients stay engaged in their treatment.
“What helped define the solution was going out and talking to professionals and asking, ‘What works right now? What is the pain point?’ And we realized that this engagement piece was really crucial,” he said.
“The goal is to help providers be as effective as possible. If you have 30 minutes with a client once a week, how do you extend that care outside of that 30 minutes?” he said.
Last September, NeuroFlow launched its first version of its platform, which provides reminders and rewards for patients to perform mental-health exercises and uses wireless sensors to measure relaxation and stress levels during the exercises.
“We feel like technology could help with the engagement piece so people stick with therapy, do their at-home exercises, much like physical therapy,” Pardes said. “You’re not going to get better just from once a week with a professional, you really need to be doing the work in your everyday life.”
One example could be an automated reminder on a patient’s smartphone about an assignment, which could be something like doing a journal entry on the best thing that happened to them that day, which could then be completed in the app, Pardes said.
Or, the patient could use one of NeuroFlow’s wearables to get real-time feedback about how something such as meditation might be improving their breathing, heart rate or stress level.
“It creates a really positive feedback loop by having something tangible to look at,” he said.
Potential as a tech hub
Since Pardes grew up near Philadelphia and has visited Lancaster, he’s not entirely surprised that it could be the home to cutting-edge health care technology.
But in areas that aren’t within a short driving distance of Lancaster, the fact that the city is attracting cutting-edge startups could be eye-opening, Pardes said.
“In Philadelphia, I think people at least know it is not all Amish country and farmland. But outside of that, people are like, ‘Lancaster, really?’” he said.
Pardes said the key advantage of the Smart Health Innovation Lab is that it’s meant to take a company’s existing product to the next level by getting input from the actual end users.
“This is targeted for not only market-ready products but products already in market that they want to accelerate integration into more scalable institutions,” he said.
And that approach, Pardes said, could attract more firms to the Smart Health Innovation Lab.
“It may be an international hub for innovation in Lancaster, which is pretty cool,” he said.