A technology platform is helping to match paraplegic patients and those with neurological disabilities with the best healthcare providers available. They now want to use crowdfunding to develop this service even further, and their Indiegogo campaign has already reached over half of their initial $60,000 goal. Here’s their story, which began over 10 years ago…
By Jessica Harthcock, Founder and CEO of Utilize Health
I was 17 when I was paralyzed practicing gymnastics with the goal of bettering my skills for the springboard diving team. From the beginning, my prognosis was very grim; doctors said I would never regain function. This was certainly not what I thought my life would look like at age 17. My family and I wanted options – we wanted a treatment or therapy we could TRY. So for the next several years, my family and I traveled in search of highly specialized rehabilitation treatments. We went everywhere – Mayo Clinic, Vanderbilt, facilities in Chicago, Miami and Louisville. I tried anything and everything I could get my hands (or legs) on. I tried Lokomat therapy, e-stem, underwater treadmill training, vestibular therapy, hippo therapy (and the list goes on). After several years of hard work, I learned to walk again. Today, I still don’t have sensation below T3, but I walk by sight (and with the help of my service dog, Ozzie). It’s been a journey, one that’s never really over.
This experience has taught me a lot about myself, but also about the gaps in the healthcare system. It was extremely difficult to learn about all of the existing and new treatments. Googling only gets one so far. Once I found a treatment or therapy I wanted to try, no one could tell me where to go to get it. Locating a facility with a particular therapy sometimes took months. After experiencing difficulties in finding resources and therapies, I knew there had to be an easier way, so I vowed to create a tool that could help other patients find the resources they needed without wasting time, energy and financial resources. Thus, Utilize Health was born.
Utilize Health is a platform that matches patients with neurological disabilities to the therapies and facilities they need to maximize their potential for recovery. Think OpenTable or Hotels.com, but for patients and facilities/therapies.
My husband and I started the company in May 2013. We were accepted into a top-ranked business accelerator program called Jumpstart Foundry. Through the program, we developed the idea into a sustainable business.
In December of 2013, Utilize Health was very fortunate to unexpectedly receive national press from USA Today. Patients, families, facilities and equipment manufacturers all started reaching out to see if they could use our service. But there was a BIG problem… the website didn’t exist yet. We were in the process of raising funds to build the web application.
I lost sleep… a lot of sleep. What do we do? People need this and they need it NOW. Patients don’t want to wait. Every email, phone call, and social media request seemed more urgent than the next.
The Utilize Health team rallied. We created a plan. We started to manually match patients to therapies and facilities across the country. Manual matching is completed by essentially looking at spreadsheets and other paper databases. Manual matching is time consuming. It takes anywhere from 7-10 days, sometimes longer.
In April, the Utilize Health team had successfully matched more than 100 patients to therapies and facilities across the country. Patients and their loved ones were thrilled with the resources Utilize Health was able to provide them.
Unfortunately, there are still patients and their families on the waitlist waiting to be matched. More patients sign up daily. With a wait list a mile long, we need to automate the matching process. This is when we decided to ask the public for help through crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding has given us an opportunity to gain support within the community. In less than 48 hours, we raised more than $20,000. We were completely blown away by people’s generosity.
All the funds pledged will do directly towards the development and creation of the web application to automate the matching process. Perks and prizes are offered such as Utilize Health swag and patient advocate subscriptions. Our campaign is live until August 22nd. Click on the link below to check out the campaign.
We are so thankful to everyone who has contributed thus far. We truly hope to make an impact for those individuals who have neurological conditions. As we say at Utilize Health, No One Walks Alone.
If you’re interested in the subject, why not join the Mendeley Crowdfunding group, or let us know in the comments below if you have any experiences to share with the community!