MedCity News: Workit Health raises $1.1M in bid to go beyond digital version of addiction recovery program
Workit Health, a digital health business geared to people in various stages of substance use, has raised $1 million in seed funding, according to a news release on its website. The investment will be used to scale its model so it can be better equipped to partner with employers, healthcare providers and payers
In response to emailed questions, Workit Health co-founder Robin McIntosh wrote that the business seeks to hire addiction counselors, software engineers, and sales representatives.
The company, which is taking part in the Healthbox Studios, Los Angeles cohort, attracted investment from institutional and angel investors. Montage Venturesand Lux Capital led the seed round, but Workit also secured funding from Invest Detroit Ventures’ First Step Fund, Wakestream Ventures, and Impact Engine.
Among its institutional partners are Priority Health and Beaumont Health. It also has partnerships with researchers at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and the University of Michigan Depression Center.
The company’s first service is a 90-day digital program that pairs users with certified counselors and interactive, customized content. The interactive curriculum continually adapts to each individual’s evolving needs and feedback, the news release said.
“Employers and health plans refer participants to the Workit program,” McIntosh said in an email. “EAPs and clinical case managers are integrating Workit to help address addictive behavior issues. When we work with employers, employees are prompted to sign up anonymously. Employers receive anonymized data back that details engagement, reduction in use, and [return on investment] stats.”
McIntosh added that because Workit is suggested as a resource, rather than an obligatory compliance measure, “it re-introduces substance wellbeing as a priority in the workplace.”
Workit Health Co-founders McIntosh and Lisa McLaughlin met in the substance use recovery community, each with their own personal journeys. That’s the kind of perspective that informs the startup’s approach, design and mission, McIntosh said.
“We are building a recovery experience every single one of us wants and deserves. We are patients as designers, reinventing a system we have intimate experience with from the ground up. Authenticity is key,” said McIntosh.
Still, there are a few startups that want to add digital support to addiction recovery. Ascent and Sparkite, seem like more direct competition as they both seek to provide virtual counselors. Addicaid and iRecover both seek to connect people in recovery to resources in their community, but Addicaid also sees a way to work with payers and employers as well as consumers. Most of them claim a certain amount of legitimacy by having at least one member of their management team in recovery. At the end of the day though, it’s going to be the business skills of the management team, their ability to attract and retain investment and customers that will determine their success.
Asked to contrast Workit’s approach from some of these companies, McIntosh observed that many companies entering the recovery space just offer conventional treatment remotely and in digital form. Her company, on the other hand, uses “machine learning algorithms” that give a more personalized approach to each end user.
“We focus on employers and addictive behaviors rather than aftercare following residential treatment. This is a unique market entry point. We’ve calculated the costs of a single employee who engages in risky addictive behavior to be over $6,500 per year to their employer. This number, which includes direct medical costs as well as lost productivity, is roughly 90 percent higher than Workit’s per-employee cost. While indirect competition might be a product addressing mental health at large in the workplace, we believe targeted solutions are needed here.”
She added: “In addition to dramatically reducing the cost of treating risky addictive behavior, we offer clear outcomes, as well as a definable ROI.”
McIntosh noted that every element of Workit’s program is deliberately designed such as its exercises, to care packages sent to Workit Health program particpants in their first week.
Because its program is designed to be used with several different user profiles, it also, surprisingly, makes room for people who want to continue to use drugs and/or alcohol, but in moderation.
“Workit is for everyone, not just people meeting the formal diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder,” McIntosh wrote. “Additionally, our digital nature allows us to deliver treatment to people who are unwilling or unable to access conventional analog services.”
Asked about the revenue model for the business, McIntosh said that the company works with clients to come to an agreement on “pay for performance.” In the future, the goal is to attract payers in the health insurance marketplace as an additional revenue stream. She added that she and McLaughlin are also exploring a direct-to-consumer model.