Digital Health Veterans Launch Virtual Eating Disorder Startup

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For Amanda D’Ambra and Joan Zhang, the idea of ​​starting and co-founding an eating disorder treatment startup was personal: Both had struggled with an eating disorder, along with other mental health issues, and had received treatment—the treatment they hoped they would receive. more people. have access.

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D’Ambra and Zhang previously worked in digital health before deciding to start Arise, a virtual eating disorder treatment company in New York City. Arise is committed to providing education, care and long-term support to those suffering from any eating disorder through a personalized care plan with licensed providers.

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The only thing the founders would like to see more of in other companies is to “look at people first and foremost and support them in everything that is a priority for them in life.”

Based on their personal experience, Zhang and D’Ambra say that other mental health factors influence the patient’s journey, so they are trying to personalize patient care.

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“There are so many complexities in what has contributed to the eating disorder, and it’s not just the food and it’s not just the body,” Zhang said. “I think the other really important thing is starting to shift from ‘Oh, it’s a need problem’ to a broader systemic issue and how it contributes to this disordered eating culture and eating disorders that have been created.”

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders, eating disorders are the second most lethal mental illness (after opioid use), and 26% of people with an eating disorder attempt suicide.

Additionally, BIPOCs (black, indigenous, and people of color) are “significantly” less likely to receive treatment compared to white people, and nearly 50% of LGBTQIA+ people reported an eating disorder.

As for D’Ambra and Zhang, they hope Arise can become a welcoming, safe and open space for the underprivileged while being “community oriented”.

“We are looking to build a more accessible and inclusive model that will serve a much wider range of people who do have eating disorders and eating disorders but are not receiving recognition or support,” D’Ambra said.

Arise was able to garner support as they announced a $4 million oversubscribed seed funding round led by BBG Ventures (an investment in Alula and Reside Health) and Greycroft (an investment in Bumble and Boulder Care) with participation from Aya Romm, co-founder of Cityblock and Sonder Health chairman Sylvia Romm.

The company plans to launch its pilot program later this summer, however the pilot program will only serve up to 30 patients. The pilot is likely to be a “short-term affair,” the company said.

After beta testing, Arise hopes to serve about 100 active patients by the end of the year. Initially, the company will start operations in New York, North Carolina and possibly Texas. However, as the company plans to work with insurance companies and Medicaid, it all depends on where they can penetrate.

The company is growing at a time when mental health and digital health companies are facing a loss of staff and support.

Cerebral lost several insurance contracts after the FDA launched an investigation into a potential violation of the Controlled Substances Act. In addition, Talkspace and BetterHelp have come under the spotlight as the US Senate looks into potential violations of privacy rights.

The Senate is asking these mental health app providers for clarification on their data collection and sharing policies after reports mentioned that companies may be sharing data with Meta and Google.

“When it comes to mental health especially, we take member data very seriously and strongly believe in the need to respect and protect privacy,” D’Ambra told TechCrunch. “For us, it shows in our approach to care, bringing it right into people’s homes. Importantly, this also means that the data must be secured and returned to the hands of our members to promote their healing, and not sold to third parties for advertising or profit.”

As a rule, third-party digital health companies are not subject to HIPAA, despite the fact that they handle sensitive patient information, and fall into the gray area of ​​regulation. It wasn’t until September 2021 that the Federal Trade Commission issued a policy requiring health apps to comply with the health notice rule.

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