Startups, Health IT

Cricket Health CEO talks about helping patients with CKD make more informed choices for care

Cricket Health won the MedCity INVEST Pitch Perfect contest for health IT companies that have raised more than $2 million.

Cricket Health CEO and one of two health IT startup winners, itch Perfect contest MedCity INVEST

Cricket Health CEO and one of two health IT startup winners, Pitch Perfect contest MedCity INVEST

Many of the technology entrepreneurs and investors that move into healthcare get criticized for not appreciating the long sales cycle, the need for clinical validation or putting forward a realistic business model. Arvind Rajan, who previously was an executive at LinkedIn, is determined not to fall into that trap. The CEO and cofounder of Cricket Health landed on kidney disease and setting up a patient and clinician facing tool to help patients with end-stage renal disease make more informed choices about their care.

“The way we treat chronic kidney disease in this country is broken from beginning to end,” Rajan said in a phone interview. Clinical intervention often happens too late, and patients who progress to kidney failure frequently get suboptimal care. “We wanted to design an experience so patients could get to the right choices for them.”

Cricket Health was one of the winners of the Pitch Perfect competition at MedCity INVEST last week. Noah Lewis, a managing director with GE Ventures and one of three judges evaluating participants in the track for health IT companies that have raised $2 million or more, listed some of the qualities of the company that persuaded him to name the company the winner in an email.

Health IT $2M over award pitch perfect mcinvest2017“It focused on a large, single, disease with an existing large market opportunity. They clearly stated the unmet need left unfulfilled by incumbents, and they specified the value proposition is ‘cost’…with a digital wrapper…and cost is king nowadays,” Lewis noted.

Cricket Health got its start in 2015. Although 88 percent of people with chronic kidney disease end up in dialysis centers, the majority of clinicians favor home dialysis, Rajan said. The problem is, CKD patients often don’t realize they have options from dialysis at home to a potential kidney transplant and palliative care in some cases.

The company developed an online patient education program, Health Options Patient Education, which connects patients with advanced stage CKD to healthcare content, clinical support and a group of healthcare professionals, peers and mentors.

It began enrolling the first patients in its educational program in late November last year. So far, 30 patients have completed the 30-60 day intervention program. By the end of the year, Rajan said the company expects to have 100 patients enrolled in the program.

Another facet of Cricket Health’s program is raising patient awareness of their dietary and fluid intake needs with the support of a team composed of a nephrologist, dietician, nurse practitioner and pharmacist.

One undercurrent of the discussion at INVEST involved the challenge of fundraising at the early stages. Coming from the tech industry as Rajan does, he acknowledged that he found it harder to raise new capital in healthcare at the early stage. In the company’s seed stage round, backers tended to be those who knew him from technology companies he worked such as Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s CEO.

Technology investors are increasingly risk averse when it comes to healthcare for very good reasons, Rajan observed. He said some had a fascination with “the shiny new objects in healthcare,” but those companies that wrongly believed that adding technology to healthcare challenges was a panacea have fallen by the wayside.

Last October, the company closed a $2.5 million funding round led by First Round Capital to help the company’s expansion and support product development, such as algorithms to identify people with CKD within hospitals’ electronic health record data.