Rippl, a new company offering mental health care to seniors, began operations today following a $32 million seed funding round.
Rippl’s services focus on seniors suffering from dementia and other neurocognitive conditions. ARCH Venture Partners and General Catalyst led the investment round with participation from GV, F-Prime Capital, and Mass General Brigham Ventures.
The company foresees opportunities to collaborate with other providers in the care continuum, including primary care physicians, home health, and hospice and palliative care organizations, according to Rippl CEO and Co-Founder Kris Engskov.
“On hospice and home health, I feel like we can be a great partner for either,” Engskov told Hospice News. “There are lots of things that we could come in and do — especially because we can deliver a lot of this care virtually — and really help provide some specialization that those organizations may not have ready access to because they’re focused on other things.”
Hospices have been caring for dementia patients in larger numbers and can likely expect a more substantial influx in coming years. The number of dementia patients is expected to rise by 40%, or 139 million people globally, by 2050, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the United States, roughly 13.8 million adults 65 and older will experience dementia by 2060, according to projections from the Alzheimer’s Association. This is nearly double the estimate of 6.2 million patients currently diagnosed with that condition.
Rippl’s care model is designed to provide tech-enabled, 24/7 access to mental health care for these patients in their homes. The company plans to use its seed-round capital to hire and train clinicians, build out its technology platform, and launch two pilot networks, initially in Seattle and surrounding markets.
The company also is also developing a partnership with a large academic institution to create an academy to offer specialized, senior-focused mental health care training to professionals in a range of clinical disciplines, Engskov said.
“We have to bring a lot of other people from other disciplines into this space, building an army of specialists that have the right support to go out and keep people at home,” Engskov explained. “Many people will never be able to really afford long-term care, and I think there’s a big equity issue here. So how do we provide that infrastructure to keep them at home?”
Among the company’s goals is to reduce both the burden on patients and caregivers as well as the financial strain on the health care system.
The Alzheimer’s Association projects the total cost of care for dementia patients to reach $321 billion in 2022, including $206 billion in Medicare and Medicaid. These patients experience high rates of hospitalizations, readmissions, emergency department visits, and nursing home admissions, the association reported.
Engskov, a former president of the U.S. division of Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX), began looking into these issues while he was leading the long-term care company Aegis Living. As president of Aegis, Engskov noted high rates of ED visits among their residents compared to those with other diagnoses.
“We were sending residents to the ER who were having behavioral symptoms related to dementia, despite the fact that we had a fairly good-sized clinical team on site,” he told Hospice News. “ERs are filled with seniors with mental health conditions that shouldn’t be there because ERs are not designed to serve them.”
These factors led Engskov to start thinking about the difficulty of managing these types of care in the home, which in part spurred the decision to launch Rippl.
Rippl plans to seek reimbursement for its services through value-based, risk-sharing payment models with private insurance companies, as well as Medicare, Medicaid, and Medicare Advantage.
“Rippl is redefining health care for seniors in a way that is long overdue,” said Holly Maloney, managing director at the venture capital firm General Catalyst, which participated in the seed round. “We believe Rippl’s approach will lead to higher quality care, better patient outcomes, and will help relieve the burden on families and caregivers that need support.”