Ginger.io raises $20M partly to support R&D expansion to monitor chronic pain, heart disease patients

Following on the heels of some high-profile partnerships with medical and research centers last year, Ginger.io has raised $20 million from new investor Kaiser Permanente Ventures, along with returning investors Khosla Ventures and True Ventures, according to a company statement. In an interview with marketing head Joe Grimberg, he said the company would be expanding […]

Following on the heels of some high-profile partnerships with medical and research centers last year, Ginger.io has raised $20 million from new investor Kaiser Permanente Ventures, along with returning investors Khosla Ventures and True Ventures, according to a company statement. In an interview with marketing head Joe Grimberg, he said the company would be expanding clinical applications of its technology, which makes assessments of patients’ mental health based on their smartphone activity and self-reported information.

Update: Grimberg emphasized that the majority of the funding would be used to deepen and expand its core mental health platform. “We are committed to expanding our core mental health offering in 2015.”

Medication adherence is a big reason for its expanding medical applications, particularly for patients with chronic conditions such as chronic pain management, diabetes and heart disease, said Grimberg. By providing a way to identify patients for whom depression is a major obstacle to following their care plan, hospitals can look at ways to improve their understanding of how their behavior affects their health and provide counseling to make them feel more able to manage their condition.

Grimberg added that the company is also expanding its technology to cover patients’ functionality following hip or knee surgery.

Last year, it unveiled a series of partnerships with UC San Francisco, Partners HealthCare (which includes Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and McLean Hospital), Duke University, UC Davis and University of Nebraska Medical Center. In December, it added a population health partnerships with a nonprofit and a couple of community health clinics in Utah to integrate mental health assessments into primary care settings. The public-private partnership is designed to improve care for high-cost patients with serious mental illness, anxiety and depression, along with a serious physical health condition such as diabetes or heart disease. It is backed by Cambria Health Solutions.

“Helping people understand how their behavior impacts their health is what our guiding principle is and what we think it’s the most useful [application of our technology],” said Grimberg.

He said the company would use a portion of the new funding to expand its research and development arm. It also plans to add an undetermined number of staff in 2015 that will help it grow from its 40 person business to reflect the increased number of patients, providers using the mobile health tool and to support more disease areas. Some of those new hires in 2015 will include user experience designers, Grimberg said.

“We’re equipping academic medical centers with a great research tool but … we will also use a good portion of the money to expand our current offering.”

Novant Health and Centerstone/CRI demonstrated strong results using Ginger.io’s platform, according to the statement. It helped increase patients’ confidence in managing their conditions, improved standardized health measures and decreased ER visits and hospitalizations.

“This is essentially a shift in the paradigm structure for healthcare,” Grimberg said. “Our partners very quickly see the value of our program and it is being adopted into more core behavioral health settings.”

I would think this would be the kind of technology that would be helpful for remote monitoring in clinical trials and a source close to the company confirmed it has been approached by a few pharma companies. But the business isn’t interested in going in that direction just yet.

[Photo from flickr user Billy Wilson]

Update: This story has been updated to clarify how Ginger.io will use its Series B funding