The Bear Institute Pediatric Accelerator Challenge for Kids Winners Announced

Oracle Health and Children’s National Hospital’s annual Bear PACK competition helps advance pediatric digital health innovation, adoption, and access

AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 1, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Oracle Health and Children’s National Hospital announced the winners of the third annual Bear Institute Pediatric Accelerator Challenge for Kids (Bear PACK), a start-up competition aimed at fostering digital health innovation for children. The winners – Bend Health Inc., Kismet Health, RareCareNow, and Thynk Inc. – were recognized across four innovation tracks for their efforts to improve child health outcomes, enhance the care experience for patients, families, and clinicians, and reduce the cost of care for patients and health systems.

With more than 250 standalone pediatric hospitals in the U.S. today, there is a significant opportunity for pediatric care technology startups to overcome unique funding and go-to-market challenges, more successfully build and sustain their businesses, and have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of children and their families.

“Bear PACK includes the entire pediatric healthcare community to help close the gap in innovative solutions dedicated to helping children,” said Jessica Herstek, M.D., chief medical information officer, Children’s National Hospital. “Together, Oracle Health and Children’s National Hospital are helping startups accelerate innovation and technology adoption by showcasing new products and connecting mission-driven entrepreneurs with pediatric healthcare providers and administrators.”

“Working with Children’s National Hospital, we’re continuing to make meaningful progress on bringing more digital health solutions for kids to market, helping to improve pediatric patient experience and health outcomes globally,” said Nasim Afsar, M.D., M.B.A., M.H.M., senior vice president and chief health officer, Oracle Health. “With less than one percent of global digital health funding being allocated for children’s health1, the Bear PACK challenge has never felt more important or needed.”

The 2023 winners in each category are:

  • Early-State Innovation: RareCareNow
    Using a telehealth platform, RareCareNow is helping patients who have been diagnosed and are seeking treatment for rare and genomic diseases in the U.S. With molecular diagnostics integrated earlier in the care process, patients can more quickly identify and connect with a specialist using RareCareNow’s network of physicians providing care specific to their needs. Patients will not only receive genetic counseling and treatment plans but will have a long-term provider for ongoing care coordination and symptom management. 

Alexander Katz, chief medical officer and co-founder, RareCareNow

“Our goal is to reimagine how genomic medicine is practiced by bringing cutting edge molecular diagnostics into the care process as early as possible, and then providing ongoing care and coordination for all patients so they can benefit from their genomic results. We’re improving access to care for patients with genomic and rare diseases, and in doing so we can ease the uncertainty of the diagnosis and the diagnostic odyssey. By embracing telehealth and technology, we will empower patients and families to be proactive in their own care.”

  • Concept Validation: Kismet Health
    Designed by and for providers, Kismet Health’s pediatric virtual care platform offers a digital playspace that allows clinicians to communicate with patients through their language of play, increasing overall patient engagement and effectiveness. Kismet’s collaborative care technology allows providers to bring healthcare access to families where and when they need it most, allowing for longitudinal care throughout the entire year and more equitable outcomes. 

Christie Sander, co-founder, president and COO, Kismet Health

“It’s an honor to be selected for this innovative program with like-minded individuals who are also passionate about revolutionizing the future of pediatric healthcare. Kismet has launched with digital health companies and smaller clinics, with the goal now to integrate with EHRs like Oracle Health’s to expand to children’s hospitals, health systems, and government programs – ultimately meeting families where they are and closing the gap in care access.”

  • Early Commercialization: Thynk Inc.
    Thynk developed an immersive game designed to help children improve cognitive skills and overall mental wellness in a safe and fun environment. Youth play an adventure game on a mobile device while wearing a headset that uses proprietary EEG technology that reads brainwaves to determine their level of focused attention. This measured focus level also controls the speed and success of the in-game character as it completes various missions, and the difficulty level adjusts accordingly. With regular use, children can improve 13 cognitive skills including focused attention, impulse management, and develop their self-regulation skills, all of which are important for academic success and personal growth.

Christopher Tracy, co-founder, board director and COO, Thynk

“Our product has proven lasting effects in improving focus and attention for children who may be struggling with such skills. The outcomes of eight successful clinical studies with more than 300 users of our product have shown improvements in behavior, test scores, homework completion, and math and reading fluency. In addition to teaming with healthcare organizations, we’re working to also reach underserved populations who may lack access to the tools needed to improve cognitive skills.”

  • Growth Trajectory: Bend Health Inc.
    Bend Health is a national mental health provider for kids and their families designed to increase access, reduce wait times, and decrease costs of pediatric mental healthcare. As the only provider using an enhanced Collaborative Care Model in partnership with pediatric primary care, Bend’s data-driven platform allows primary care providers to easily refer and connect patients with virtual therapists. They then receive regular updates on care progress, more closely aligning medical and behavioral care. Offering services such as coaching, therapy, and expedited psychiatric care, Bend integrates virtual video visits, chat messaging, and digital experiences to achieve better outcomes through measurement-based care. Collaborating with leading insurers, employers, and health systems, as well as providing self-pay options, Bend Health ensures widespread accessibility to its services.

Quote from Dr. Monika Roots, president and co-founder, Bend Health

“At Bend Health, pediatricians receive regular patient progress updates, empowering them to make informed care decisions based on timely mental health measures. Bend’s collaborative care teams enable practitioners to accurately diagnose children and provide a holistic approach that consistently achieves clinically significant results for both kids and their families. Our seven peer-reviewed studies demonstrate these positive outcomes, with 80% of kids showing improvement in 60-90 days, and 4 out of 5 caregivers reporting reduced stress within a month of joining Bend.”

1Children’s digital health innovation received less than 1% ($167 million) of global digital health funding ($22 billion) in 2020, according to StartUp Health’s annual report on digital health funding.

About Children’s National Hospital

Children’s National Hospital, based in Washington, D.C., was established in 1870 to help every child grow up stronger. Today, it is the No. 5 children’s hospital in the nation and ranked in all specialties evaluated by U.S. News & World Report. Children’s National is transforming pediatric medicine for all children. The Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus opened in 2021, a first-of-its-kind pediatric hub dedicated to developing new and better ways to care for kids. Children’s National has been designated three times in a row as a Magnet® hospital, demonstrating the highest standards of nursing and patient care delivery. This pediatric academic health system offers expert care through a convenient, community-based primary care network and specialty care locations in the D.C. metropolitan area, including Maryland and Virginia. Children’s National is home to the Children’s National Research Institute and Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation. It is recognized for its expertise and innovation in pediatric care and as a strong voice for children through advocacy at the local, regional and national levels. As a non-profit, Children’s National relies on generous donors to help ensure that every child receives the care they need.

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