To hear Madan tell it, patients with mental and behavioral health conditions have always been "massively undersupported." To that end, he co-founded Ginger.io to uncover ways to "find the pieces of the puzzle that can improve the quality of care." After patients install the Ginger.io app, care providers can track behaviors and patterns that signal a change in condition or a heightened risk. The company works with insurance companies, health systems and hospitals around the country to treat problems like depression, one of the country's commonest chronic illnesses, one often seen with other health issues.
The app gathers patient data passively. "Things like lethargy, isolating yourself, changes in your sleep cycle or the way you socialize are all discoverable, in some form, from your phone," Madan explains. "And we know that when people are heading into episodes, coaching at the right time can really help." So rather than asking them to track thousands of patients, Ginger.io helps care providers "focus on the much smaller group—say the 300 or so who might be exhibiting these changes—and possibly reach out to them just when they are needed most."
Such interventions are critical, since mental-health episodes are often characterized by a reluctance or inability to act. "Patients aren't likely to call for help even though they need it," Madan continues. When they receive a call from a care provider, then, "the sense that 'my nurse really cares about me' has a big value."
Ginger.io began with depression ("that's where we've had the biggest demand and the most validation," Madan says), but partnerships with institutions like Partners HealthCare, Duke University and the University of California, San Francisco have led the company to other conditions, heart disease and diabetes among them. "In the next five years, I see consumers playing a much bigger role in managing their own health," Madan predicts. "Some of it will be driven by the ACA, but much of it is about our generation. We go to WebMD before we go to the doctor. It's a fundamental shift in our thinking." —Sarah Mahoney