By Nathan Rubbelke, St. Louis Business Journal | March 19, 2020
St. Louis-based digital health startup CareSignal said Thursday it has launched a free, text message-based program designed to provide resources and information on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The startup’s COVID Companion program, aimed at mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus, will be offered at no cost to health systems. It also is free to the general public, which can text “health” to 67634 to start using the program. Existing CareSignal customer and investor OSF HealthCare of Peoria, Illinois, is using COVID Companion. The startup says it will provide customized features and marketing materials to other health systems that launch it.
Started in 2015, CareSignal has developed a remote patient monitoring platform used by health systems, payers and physician groups. The company’s founders include CEO Blake Marggraff, Chief Medical Officer Avik Som, Chief Developer Evan Huang and Chief Financial/Operations Officer Joe McDonald. The startup was formerly known as Epharmix.
Among the features of the COVID Companion are daily safety tips, a preparation checklist, contact information for local health resources and educational materials for at-risk populations. The technology is designed to provide tools for both high- and low-risk individuals, Marggraff said.
“There are folks who are relatively low risk and very healthy right now, but there are things they should know and they can be doing to help those around them and help themselves in case they do become sick,” he said.
CareSignal decided last week to develop the coronarvirus-themed program. What followed was “maybe the most intense week, weekend, days and nights that our team has ever experienced,” Marggraff said.
Given the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and the startup's focus on health tech, CareSignal officials said it was an easy decision to move forward with the project.
“My team has heard me say this a few times now: It’s pretty rare for a group of people to be in a position to have an incredibly positive impact in a very short period of time,” Marggraff said.
Based in the Cortex district, CareSignal has more than 20 employees. It has raised $7 million since its founding. The creation of COVID Companion has pulled CareSignal employees away from other duties and projects, but that decision comes as the startup braces for uncertainty ahead.
“From a business perspective, though, the world for the next two months, maybe longer, will look very different,” Marggraff said. “For many companies, especially many technology or health technology companies, their fundamental value propositions will be way less compelling during this period. It’s foolish to stick your head in the sand and just wait for the storm to pass. That’s not how startups work."
CareSignal | Team Photo