Beaming Health: When Passion and Need Align
Marissa Pittard and Chris Olmanson met in the Biodesign for Digital Health course in late 2020 when they were randomly assigned to the same team. Quickly, they realized they shared a passion for helping families with children who have special needs.
They also shared a vision for a world in which every parent sleeps well at night, knowing that they are doing all they can to set their child up for a happy and healthy life. “For me, it’s personal,” explained Pittard. “I have a brother with a significant sensory challenge. My whole life, my family has never really known what help he needed and where to go to get it. My parents and I have spent so much time and money navigating that experience.”
Olmanson had seen the issue from the other side. “I worked at United Healthcare for four years, specifically on a team serving parents of kids of special healthcare needs,” he said. “I talked to a lot of parents and heard over and over about similar experiences to what Marissa's family went through. I felt like it shouldn't be as hard as it is.”
Assigned to work together on their class project by happy accident, the two started researching unmet needs within this space, focusing on the impact autism has on families. They found that navigating healthcare was so difficult and all-consuming that families experienced a reduction in income of 27 percent, in addition to a sizable emotional and mental toll.
Convinced that their passion represented a compelling opportunity, Pittard and Olmanson decided to advance their project beyond class. They continued engaging with families and service providers and ultimately decided to create a portal where caregivers could more readily find resources, get help in resolving insurance issues, and access referrals for care providers and advocates for their children. They also built a national database of resources to support their service model and launched their platform as Beaming Health in 2021.
The site grew in the first year to include over 30,000 providers and more than 50,000 families, who accessed Beaming Health to find services each month. Pittard and Olmanson also cultivated a group of parents to serve as an advisory board that meets weekly and helps the team at Beaming Health to stay close to the needs of the people who use their platform. Now, the Beaming Health team is expanding its focus to include broader developmental difference such as cerebral palsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Just three years since completing their Biodesign training, Pittard and Olmanson are encouraged by what they have been able to accomplish. “On the provider's side, our technology is helping them to better reach families and fill the openings they have,” Olmanson said. “And on the parent side, we’re hearing, 'Wow, finally someone is building modern solutions for this community.’”
In other words, Beaming Health has become what Pittard and Olmanson hoped when they first envisioned it: a bright spot where differences are seen as strengths and families can more effectively get their children the support and resources they need most.