Five Questions and an Elevator Pitch:
1. What it the need your project seeks to address?
Chris: Raising a child with autism takes a tremendous toll on families, especially parents. It not only reduces a family’s income by 27%, but nearly half of parents say they need help managing related emotional and physical stress. The Beaming Health app is a ‘one-stop shop’ that provides resources and assistance to parents of kids with autism to alleviate stress and give them back time to just be with their families.
Annie: Our goal is to take as many tasks off their plate as possible. So we do things like help resolve insurance issues, engage with school advocates to make sure the family has access to all available school resources and support, and provide referrals to qualified care providers like Applied Behavioral Analysis [ABA] therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and pediatricians with experience in autism.
2. How does your solution work?
Marissa: Families engage with Beaming Health through a web portal. When they log on, they can access their personal plan, which helps organize their current projects and priorities. Or they can browse other relevant content like age-or-location-specific resources for their child, or curated community groups of parents who have children at a similar place on the spectrum or who live in in the same area. Each family also gets a personal Beaming Health consultant, who can take over tasks like sitting on hold with the insurance company or helping a family that is relocating find a speech therapist in their new town.
Chris: We’re building a national database of resources that will help our consultants serve these families. It includes lists of Individualized Education Program [IEP] advocates who can help parents customize school resources, grants that kids with autism can qualify for, available government assistance programs, lists of summer camps for kids with developmental disabilities, and more.
3. What motivated you to keep working on the project and what activities did you undertake?
Annie: The biggest motivation has been the desire to improve care and ease the journey for parents who have children with special needs. The mentoring support and funding we received through the Biodesign NEXT program boosted our confidence and helped us make the switch from thinking about this a class project to seeing it as something we could potentially do full-time after graduation. And now we’ve had discussions with investors who have expressed interest in funding the project in the future.
Chris: In terms of activities, we’ve been continuing to talk with as many families as possible, as well as insurers, clinicians, and educators, in order to iterate and improve our offering. We’ve connected with most of these stakeholders through word-of-mouth, but we’ve also met with a couple of community organizations in our area. We also had a great interaction with the administrator of a Facebook group who posted about us to the group’s 22,000 followers. In terms of the product itself, we’re building our website and have wireframes of what our product will look like, which we’re continuing to improve based on user feedback.
4. What’s one of the most important things you learned from advancing your project beyond the academic year?
Marissa: It’s really important to get out of the room with your team and talk to the people you want to serve. Otherwise, you can get pretty far down a path of building something that nobody wants. Our initial concept was to help guide the families of kids with autism by providing information like lists of things they should do based on the age of their child, as well as resources they could access. But after talking to so many families, we pivoted to a model where we actually help them do all of those things.
5. What advice do you have for other students who want to become health technology innovators?
Chris: Talk to other innovators in your space. We’ve had dozens of meetings with other entrepreneurs and investors. We’ve been able to learn a lot from their successes and failures, and bypass some of the problems they encountered.
Marissa: When you’re innovating in health technology specifically, it requires a higher level of trust. That’s such an important factor to keep in mind. This isn’t the kind of technology where you can ‘move fast and break things.’ You’re working with people’s lives and their children, so you have to take the responsibility that comes with that very seriously.
Original Team Members: Annie Chang, Bera Demirbilek, Chris Olmanson, Marissa Morgan Pittard
Course: Biodesign for Digital Health, fall 2020
Biodesign NEXT Funding: Awarded for winter and spring quarters 2021