Patient Engagement, Startups

Catalia Health brings interactive robots to patient homes to initiate behavior change

Named Mabu, Catalia’s interactive robot has tailored conversations with patients about their healthcare needs and relays progress information to their pharmacist or healthcare provider.

patient engagement

A little more than three-and-a-half years ago, Cory Kidd founded Catalia Health based on the work he did at the MIT Media Lab and Boston University Medical Center.

Headquartered in San Francisco, the company’s overarching goal is to improve patient engagement and launch behavior change. But the way it goes about meeting that mission is unique.

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Through Catalia Health’s model, each patient is equipped with an interactive robot to put in their home. Named Mabu, the robot learns about each patient and their needs, including medications and treatment circumstances.

Mabu can then have tailored conversations with a patient about their routine and how they’re feeling. The information from those talks securely goes back to the patient’s pharmacist or healthcare provider, giving them an update on the individual’s progress and alerting them if something goes wrong.

Right now, the company is focused on bringing Mabu to patients with congestive heart failure. It is currently working with Kaiser Permanente on that front. But Catalia Health is also doing work on other disease states, such as rheumatoid arthritis and late-stage kidney cancer.

“We’re not replacing a person,” Kidd, the startup’s CEO, said in a recent phone interview. “[Providers have] the ability now to have a lot more insight on all their patients on a much more frequent basis.”

Why use a robot as a means to gather such insight?

Kidd explained: “We get intuitively that face-to-face [interaction] makes a difference. Psychologically, we know what that difference is: We create a stronger relationship and we find the person to be more credible. The robot can literally look someone in the eyes, and we get the psychological effects of face-to-face interaction.”

The robot — and face-to-face interaction — helps keep patients engaged over a long period of time, Kidd added.

As for its business model, Catalia Health works directly with pharma companies and health systems. These organizations pay the startup on a per patient, per month basis. The patient using Mabu doesn’t have to pay.

The company is also currently offering interested heart failure patients a free trial of Mabu. The patient simply has to give Catalia feedback on their experience.

“That’s ongoing and very active right now,” Kidd said of the free trial effort.

In late 2017, the company closed a $4 million seed round, following two previous funding rounds amounting to more than $7.7 million. Ion Pacific led the $4 million round. Khosla Ventures, NewGen Ventures, Abstract Ventures and Tony Ling also participated.

Photo: mathisworks, Getty Images