Rippl Care CEO: ‘Our system is not ready’ to deliver mental health care to aging population

America’s health care system is ill-equipped to care for a growing aging population and the mental health challenges that come with it, according to Chris Engskov.

That’s why he started Rippl Care.

As its CEO and co-founder, Engskov leads a start-up company that seeks to combine highly specialized care, technology and home services to address seniors’ mental health in a way that keeps them at home longer and out of long-term care. care facilities.

Rippl Care came out of stealth mode last week with $32 million in seed funding. The round was led by two venture capital firms: Chicago-based ARCH Venture Partners and Cambridge, Massachusetts-based General Catalyst. Engskov and his fellow founders teased releasing more information about the company in the week leading up to the investment announcement

BHB first reported on Engskov’s venture in March, when he was trying to build the company’s management team. He co-founded Rippl with Inka Dieterich, who has been an associate at ARCH Venture Partners since 2020. She is also vice president and partner of strategy and innovation.

A former Clinton White House administrator and former longtime Starbucks Corp. executive. (Nasdaq: SBUX), Engskov left as president of Bellevue, Washington-based senior living company Aegis Living in September 2021 to launch a then-unnamed startup.

The following questions and answers have been edited for length, clarity and style.

BHB: What is Rippl Care? What does Rippl Care do?

meadow forest: It is a technology-enabled highly specialized human network that helps people stay at home and out of the emergency room who have a range of mental health conditions, starting with dementia.

What does it do? I will try to answer this in the context of what we think are the differentiators. This does not exist today, which we are trying to provide. It doesn’t exist mainly because fee-for-service health care doesn’t pay for it. And so we try to approach it in a value way.

We may not start on a value basis, but that’s the ambition because we want to be paid for results and do it cheaper, which I’m confident we can do.

First, we want to provide 24/7 crisis behavioral support to patients and families.

Second, we want to provide care navigation and coordination, and that’s the big one that’s not paid for by Medicare on a fee-for-service basis. How do you help people along the journey? Because it’s long.

Also specialist medical management. Most of these people have multiple chronic conditions. And often they are not considered holistically.

Finally, we want to provide psychotherapy to both the patient who has capacity and the family, because we know that the tipping point, usually, for long-term care is that the caregiver is not the patient.

In the longer term, we will add remote patient monitoring.

It sounds like your team has been very successful in fundraising. You call that a family circle, don’t you?

Yes, this is an opening round. I admit this is a big seed circle.

We incubated the company under Arch Ventures.

While I understand that the initial condition you are looking to address is dementia and other cognitive needs, why would we classify Rippl Care as a behavioral health company?

I think we’ve been much more consistent in saying mental health because it’s a broader category and more broadly represents what we’re trying to do.

We are starting with dementia and neurocognitive, but we fully expect that we will want to help people with depression and anxiety. Older people experience these mental health conditions, broadly defined, very differently than most other groups.

We expect that we will have a broad impact on mental health conditions in this category.

So the services you provide are not limited to people with dementia or other neurocognitive problems? Let’s say an elderly person is really struggling with transitions in their life and is exhibiting depressive symptoms. Will Ripple Care help this patient even though he doesn’t have dementia?

Absolutely. Dementia is only a starting point for us because we think there is such an urgent need. We expect that the psychic services we offer will be applicable to a wide range of conditions. This is why we have the dedicated team we are building.

Does Rippl Care already have providers going into homes?

No, we haven’t started the service yet. We expect to begin service later this fall. But we’ve built a team, we’re hiring clinicians—mostly advanced practice nurses, licensed social workers and community health workers.

We expect to serve our first patient later this year.

Does your team have early hiring round goals for the home workforce?

I hesitate to speculate because we will take the necessary time to learn how the model works best. We’ve been inspired by many of the collaborative care models that exist, and there have been several that CMMI has piloted over the past few years that have shown really impressive results.

But this model is different in terms of how it uses technology, how it deploys people (both virtual and on-site), and the like.

In terms of broad categories, what types of technology does Rippl Care use?

We are so hurt. I can’t give you many details.

But what I can say is that we fully expect to build our own proprietary platform to do the work that we’re going to do that really aims to deliver on our clinician obsession mantra. If I had to describe our philosophy in a really basic way, it’s this: How do we take care of our clinicians so they can take care of the seniors we care for?

Much of this must be about designing a technology platform that aims to make their time with a patient valuable and impactful and allow them to work at the top of their license.

We’re just getting started, but that’s the ambition of the technology.

Just taking a stab in the dark here – will this leave room for telehealth services?

I expect that much of our services will be delivered virtually. This is one of the big opportunities for us.

While we believe that having a strong ground game is important over time, we know that much of that care can be delivered truly effectively virtually. In fact, it can be a very big unlock for people in rural communities who simply don’t have access to this kind of specialist help.

What is your #1 short-term goal? What is your #1 long-term goal?

Our short-term goal is to get our first network up and running and refine this model. This model of care that we are pioneering is new and has not been implemented before. There are many moving parts that will need to be tested. It’s the most important thing we do.

Of all the things that have been talked about in the last three years, created and funded, there has been a big focus on the pediatric space and young adults. I just haven’t seen anything that focuses specifically on this kind of specialized mental health care for older adults.

There are about 20 million people who we would classify as seniors who have some kind of cognitive challenge. Half of these people have dementia and the majority of them have Alzheimer’s. That’s where we start because we think it’s urgent and it’s such a necessity.

Our system isn’t ready today, and we haven’t reached the first 85-year-old baby boomers, and you have a 1 in 3 chance of having dementia after you turn 85.

We’re just going to learn a lot over the next few months about how to deliver this highly specialized care. And I think we can be really influential with primary care providers and other potential partners and help them bridge that gap in care.

That’s the long-term goal.

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