Made of mere flesh and bone, us humans need a lot of maintenance to maintain full functionality. Thankfully, there’s a whole spectrum of professionals specializing in fixing issues that arise during our long and sometimes not-so-graceful degradation over the years.
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There is, of course, a catch. Doctors, therapists, and other healthcare specialists are expensive. Their time is valuable. While hands-on, one-on-one attention and ongoing patient follow-up is an ideal to strive for, a new wave of “digital therapeutics“ is there to bridge the gap in care, especially for chronic conditions.
Kaia Health is one such company. Based in Munich, Germany, the digital therapeutics upstart raised $10 million in a Series A round led by Balderton Capital. This brings the company’s total venture funding to $14 million. Kaia Health raised $4 million in a seed round back in June 2016.
Kaia’s product? A pair of mobile applications that offer interactive, multimodal therapy for two chronic conditions: back pain and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The company says 250,000 people across Europe and the U.S. use its back pain app, which is available on the iOS and Google Play app stores. The Series A check is earmarked for the company’s broader rollout in the U.S., which includes opening an office in New York City.
The company says its app “is not a replacement for medical treatment, and the user takes sole responsibility for the app’s usage.” Furthermore, its website states that “You are not allowed to use this App without prior consultation with your doctor.” But since you don’t need a prescription to download an app (yet) I gave it a spin.
I didn’t get to try out the features without paying ($77.99 per year, or $38.99 per year until January 22nd), but to those who do subscribe, the app offers information on back pain, video demonstrations of effective exercises, as well as breath control and muscle relaxation activities. The company says the activities available will vary by day, in accordance with a customized plan for each user.
The app also features patent-pending motion-tracking technology that monitors people’s body position during exercise sessions, coaching users on preventing injury and getting the most benefit out of a particular exercise.
In addition to individual subscriptions, Kaia Health partners with companies to offer the app to employees. BARMER, Germany’s largest health insurance company, offers the service free to its members.
Kaia Health says that its home-based digital therapeutic technology is “a clinically-validated alternative to painkillers, delivered through a smartphone.” Given the rising human and economic costs of the opioid crisis in the U.S., which according to the NIH claimed over 72,000 lives in 2017, an option besides physical therapy (which can be expensive without insurance) and painkillers (which can be addictive) may come as a welcome relief for many.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias