Gamification is gaining recognition as a powerful tool for contexts far removed from gaming itself, and the approach has been used for applications as varied as advertising, to recruiting, to rewards programs. Litesprite hopes to expand the gaming approach to a rather important sector: health.
Litesprite’s mobile application, Sinasprite, helps patients proactively manage their chronic illnesses, including mental illnesses (anxiety, depression, stress, substance abuse), cancer, and diabetes. The company’s app features Socks the Fox, a cartoon fox aiming to be a “zen master.” Patients tell Socks about their worries and frustrations, and Socks listens and then instructs the patient to, for example, take deep breaths and visualize their problems floating away. In a recently published study, users of the platform reported lower levels of depression and anxiety; users also reported that they were able to learn better coping skills. Currently, Sinasprite has over 500 users.
Litesprite Founder and CEO, Swatee Surve, previously developed and launched initiatives for Microsoft, Nike, T-Mobile, Premera Blue Cross, and Eastman Kodak. Surve holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, an MSME in Biomechanics from Pennsylvania State University, and a BS in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago. While she is clearly experienced in building healthcare technologies for major companies, we asked her a few questions about her own venture.
Medgadget: How did Litesprite start? What was the inspiration?
Swatee Surve: I’ve always been passionate about the intersection of technology and healthcare. I have been intrigued with the idea of technology helping people. I have worked in corporate research labs where my role was to identify and build healthcare businesses where emerging technology was foundational. For example, I was hired by Nike in 2001 to work on wearable technology, and my patents were the company’s first in their IP portfolio in this area. In 2010, I was evangelizing the use of machine learning and big data in healthcare through my strategic development role at Microsoft Research.
As a healthcare technologist, I observed that individual motivation, not technology, was the key to improving a person’s health. As I started researching this area in 2011, I saw there were over 40 peer-reviewed research papers indicating that gaming could improve health outcomes – but there were no commercialization efforts. In my mind, an end-to-end system approach – an effective marriage of technology that strengthens the patient-clinician relationship – was the key to making transformative change. Seeing this as an opportunity, I launched Litesprite in 2013.
Medgadget: How does the technology work?
Surve: Our games are based on evidence-based treatment methods and specific well-accepted psychological frameworks. The game-based approach is ideal for driving sustained patient engagement. These games track patient activity, deliver assessments and provide reports back to the clinicians. We can support a variety of clinical workflows. Reimbursement is available in 4 care settings.
Medgadget: At what stage is Litesprite today, in terms of team members, patients served, and specific conditions it’s being used for?
Surve: Team of 6 [full-time employees]. Several hundred patients have used it via our beta, individual clinician referral, and through several clinics. Conditions include: Anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar, substance abuse, cancer, and diabetes.
Medgadget: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the team, whether it’s on the technology or business/marketing side?
Surve: The biggest challenge is helping our customers understand the state-of-the art in required evidence for digital health interventions. As documented by the NIH, NSF, HHS, McKesson Foundation and RWJF, the model of a [randomized controlled trial] can’t support the rapid cycles of innovations that occur in digital health.
Medgadget: Looking to the future, what are the biggest goals for Litesprite?
Surve: We routinely get feedback from patients ranging from the underserved to busy professionals that we profoundly change their lives. We are a pillar of support during their greatest hour of need. Here’s one recent example:
“I use it now more than ever. Especially when I am tuning the source of my stressor… I use it daily lately because I cannot calm myself down… I used it at the doctor’s office yesterday when my husband couldn’t/wouldn’t let me talk for myself and again today when he thought he knew more than me about my problems. It calms me down.” – F, 46, Bipolar, Depression
(Note: This was a super early beta tester who was using a new version of our app.)
Our biggest goal is make this available to the millions of people who need help. And we want to find partners, providers and payers, who are excited to bring state-of-the art care to their patients and transform their lives.
Concurrently, Litesprite makes the lives of their clinical staff easier and allowing them to focus on what they do best – deliver patient-focused care.
Learn more at www.litesprite.com