AUSTIN, Texas—Christopher Molaro believes the company he cofounded, NeuroFlow, is poised to have a big impact on the mental health field, with its web-based software that brings together clinician, patient, and objective data about patient progress.
At a live pitch competition held at the Elevate by Psych Congress conference, an audience of health care experts, providers, and investors agreed.
Philadelphia-based NeuroFlow bested 5 competitors who also presented their plans for using technology to innovate in mental health care. As the winner of an audience vote, NeuroFlow will receive $5,000 from Psych Congress to support the ongoing development of its product.
The event “gave us an amazing platform to get that word out, to educate the market, and to tell our story,” said Molaro, the CEO of NeuroFlow. “I think that our story is very compelling and I know that we’re making a big impact on a lot of clients.”
The February 24, 2018, live pitch event was cosponsored by Psych Congress and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. Elevate is a 3-day conference designed for early career mental health clinicians.
“By convening some of the best entrepreneurs in technology and mental health, and giving them an opportunity to engage directly with the leading experts in the field, we can spark new conversations and road-test new ideas,” said Andrew Wright, vice president of digital medicine for Otsuka.
The other products presented included technologies to improve medication adherence, address mental health literacy and the early detection of mental illness, increase the understanding of side effects, help treat depression, and promote wellness.
“I’m really humbled and honored that we won the pitch,” Molaro said. “To go against companies like that and to walk away as the chosen most disruptive and impactful company is a big honor, and a big responsibility.”
Molaro describes the NeuroFlow platform as a “HIPAA-compliant, web-based software that allows providers, with objective data, to track, assess, and engage their patients throughout the therapy process.” It can be accessed through the Web or via its mobile app.
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In one component of the platform, algorithms aggregate and analyze patients’ physiological data collected through various wearable devices during the course of their treatment. Through integration with Apple’s Health app and Google Fit, as well as partnerships with wearable device companies, NeuroFlow can collect and examine data on patients such as their activity, sleep, stress, and relaxation.
“The reviews that we've received from clinicians is that patients are really excited about it because, for once, now they can actually measure their improvement, as opposed to just having to guess if they're feeling any better,” Molaro said.
Patients are motivated by seeing their measurements similar to how people who are dieting and exercising may be motivated when they see their weight loss on a scale, Molaro said.
Clinicians can also use the platform to give homework assignments to patients, and patients can use it anytime to complete the homework, write journal entries for cognitive behavioral therapy, and fill out validated assessment scales.
“What we're able to do is, using mobile applications and the web, we can create this touchpoint for the provider and the patient outside of the clinic and keep them engaged throughout their treatment,” Molaro said. In the tool’s 6 months of beta testing, patients have engaged with it an average of a couple times per week.
He sees the platform as a way of enhancing the work of psychiatrists and psychologists.
“I don’t believe technology is going to replace humans, but I think it can enhance them and that’s really the model of NeuroFlow,” he said.
A Mental Health Mission
A systems engineer by trade, Molaro founded NeuroFlow in April 2016 with Adam Pardes, who was in the University of Pennsylvania’s bioengineering PhD program. Molaro was enrolled in the Master’s of Business Administration program at the university’s Wharton School, and they were both in a technology fellowship program called Insight Fellows.
The seed was planted after Molaro completed 6 years in the US Army, which included a 12-month deployment to Iraq, where he was a platoon leader in charge of 40 soldiers for combat operations and was awarded the Bronze Star.
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After leaving active duty in August 2015, Molaro saw friends from the military who were struggling, and some veterans he knew died by suicide. That helped him become aware of how many people around him were suffering from mental health issues.
“I joined the Army because I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, be impact-driven, and when I transitioned off of service I wanted to continue that kind of mission-oriented way of approaching things,” Molaro said. “When I met Adam, we decided let's get the experts together—psychologists and neuroscientists—and do some research to figure out if we can do a little bit of a better job.”
After 18 months of research, the product was launched 6 months ago. In October, the company raised $1.25 million for research, development, and growth.
The company now has 15 employees—9 full-time workers, part-time employees, contractors, and advisers. The staff includes cognitive neuroscientists, psychologists, computer engineers, and data scientists.
The Path Forward
The NeuroFlow platform is concluding its beta testing, which was done with patients in 26 clinics around the United States, and 1 clinic in London. Molaro said 95% of the reviews have been “good” to “great,” another 7 to 10 clinics per month are now signing up for the product.
The $5,000 award will be reinvested in helping to get the word out about the platform and “ensuring our exposure is where it needs to be to get the product into the market.”
Company officials will be exhibiting and speaking at mental health-related conferences over the next 2 months, seeking to show clinicians what Neuroflow can do and that it can fit into their budget. A single clinician can use the platform with an unlimited number of patients for $79 a month, while a group of up to 5 clinicians can use it with an unlimited number of patients for $149 a month.
“We're at a really exciting time in the industry and where we are with technology, because the things we're doing and other companies are doing are just becoming possible,” Molaro said. “It’s exciting and it’s encouraging to see.”
Likewise, he hopes the NeuroFlow story is just beginning.
“We are always looking for innovative and forward-thinking clinical partners and we’re in our full launch mode now,” he added. “We’re excited about the way forward … get in touch with us.”