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How is Health Entertainment Transforming Mental Healthcare?

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    Posted in Interviews

    Last Updated | January 22, 2024


    Swatee Surve is a digital health maven–the founder and CEO of an award-winning healthcare firm and gamification platform; Litesprite. 

    Swatee has successfully led the development and launch of disruptive technology-based healthcare initiatives for some of the most reputable organizations including Microsoft, Nike, and Kodak. She has also been acknowledged as one of Puget Sound Business Journals Innovators of the year and recognized as an international healthcare leader by organizations such as the U.S. State Department. 

    Her knowledge is repeatedly recognized by many highly regarded companies due to her intellect and experience. 

    Let’s talk to Swatee and know how she managed to come up with a fully compliant gamification platform for mental health patients and the digital tools she counts on to solve her business problems efficiently. 

    Interview with Swatee Surve


    1. You have a very profound academic and professional background and we would love to hear about your experiences. Could you please shed some light on your journey? 

    I’ve always been interested in the intersection of health and technology. So educationally I was focused on biomedical engineering. I was interested in creating new solutions that patients could use for themselves to have better health. So professionally, I became involved with commercialization efforts that would bring these solutions to life. At this time, most new healthcare technologies were focused on enterprise solutions for the hospitals, insurance companies, or medical diagnostics. Very little was focused on building technologies for patients to use. This is partially due to the fact that a lot of the infrastructure such as smartphones, broadband, and cloud computing now didn’t exist. So building solutions that were easily accessible to patients was challenging.

    My role at firms such as Kodak and Nike was as an entrepreneur-in-residence where I developed new business concepts. This involved proposals that included the use of video visits at the patient bedside, a system that would help you destress with images customized to you, technology to help the visually impaired, and wearable technology.  In 2010, while at Microsoft Research, I worked with computer scientists and university researchers to apply AI/ML to healthcare datasets. At T-Mobile, I incubated mobile health solutions.

    2. In light of your passion for the well-being of mental health patients, you founded Litesprite. Could you walk us through the idea which led you to start a gamification platform for treating mental health patients? 

    Throughout all of these experiences, what I kept finding is that individual motivation is key to improving health outcomes. I found over 40 Peer-reviewed research papers that showed games could improve health outcomes. However, these were all focused on physical activity. Very few were focused on chronic conditions and none were on mental health. That led me to create Litesprite.

    3. Could you tell us more about the impact Litesprite creates in the minds of those seeking therapy? How do these therapeutic gaming platforms contribute to their treatment?

    We have helped thousands of people from all walks of life. We have shown that we can motivate and engage populations that are traditionally hard to reach, including Medicaid patients and underserved communities. In a clinical setting, we have worked with patients who have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, bipolar, PTSD, substance abuse, and severe mental illness. We have brought joy, changed our mindset, helped with loneliness, and inspired our patients. We’ve helped teenagers through panic attacks at school. We’ve even saved a life twice. We’re able to do this because it is an experience that is incredibly accessible and easy to use for a person and available on demand.

    Gaming platforms like Littesprite make healthcare much more accessible and help patients through the daily steps they need to take care of their health. Another thing gaming platforms can do which is absent in most Digital health solutions is to create an opportunity to empathetically address a patient’s emotional needs and support. This is creating a new field I call Health Entertainment.

    4. You have been working  in the healthcare industry for a long time, could you highlight some new tools and technologies you consider an essential need for any healthcare business? 

    The most imperative for any digital health company that collects end-user data is to have a platform that allows them to meet privacy and security requirements. We chose platforms that gave us HIPAA compliance when I founded the company and that has served us well.

    Other than that, I am not a proponent of implementing a tool or technology because it’s new. It’s more important to look at how effectively a technology or solution can solve a problem. For example, text messaging, which is not a new technology, has been shown to be very effective in driving health outcomes and engagement. So in my opinion, when you look at a new tool or technology, consider whether it will meaningfully solve a problem. Will it genuinely make a difference? Another important thing to consider is what are the unintended consequences. If you implement a new technology or tool how do you mitigate or prevent adverse behavior or outcomes?

    5. The Healthcare industry has a lot of data collection processes, and now that many businesses are incorporating EMR/EHR and HL7 integration in their systems, what is your take on the need for these solutions? Do you think there are better alternatives to these?

    These are really important integrations as EMR/EHRs are comprehensive records of a patient’s health. FHIR should also be considered as it includes web-based technologies and incorporates internet-based data exchange. This is really important as more and more data is collected by devices that use these protocols to share and exchange data for other scenarios such as e-commerce and banking.

    6. Could you help us explore the relationship between the development of gamification systems and the ethical and moral aspects that are crucial elements when the target of the process becomes the human mind? What are some of the regulatory requirements that need to be catered to while developing a gamification app for mental health patients?

    We get asked about this quite a bit. Especially given that games are known to be so engaging that they can be addictive. Just as a game can be designed to be engaging, it can be designed to be disengaging. So for example in our case, we have designed the experience so that a player uses it for 5 to 10 minutes. After that, there’s nothing to do. So I think anyone building a patient engagement tool should think about how they want the intervention to be used and ensure that an individual doesn’t become dependent upon it. It’s a fine line between giving support and becoming dependent on technology so I think any technology developer needs to consider that when they are building self-help tools.

    Mental health

    7. For mental health startups, what are the essential tips you would like to give in order to flourish and cater to their patients in the best way possible?

    An essential tip for any healthcare company, but especially mental health companies, is to use technologies and have policies, protocols, and procedures in place that will ensure the privacy and security of patient data. I don’t know if it’s because of naivety, inexperience, or a lack of prioritization or concern, but the number of mental health companies that have had data breaches or employees having improper access to patient data is astounding and mind-boggling to me. Be patient-centric – think about their journey and what are the friction points. And equally important, think about how a provider fits into the solution. Lastly, as a healthcare company, it will be very important to determine how you will generate revenue. If your intervention is one that will be deployed in a clinical setting, then you need to find a reimbursement pathway.

    If you are looking for guidelines on how to build mental health solutions, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® , the folks who organize CES, published this standard – Characteristics Requirements for Chronic Stress Technology Solutions (CTA-2106). To my knowledge, it’s the first time that these standards have been developed for mental health technology. Select mental health leaders, including myself, were invited to contribute to its writing. I wrote the metrics section. Here is the link to a free download:

    Key Takeaways

    From this talk by Swatee Surve, it’s eminent that building a healthcare firm and gamification platform needs relevant expertise, up-to-date knowledge, and passion in order to provide patients with a truly helpful digital health app. 

    Swatee has also highlighted that integrating healthcare systems with tools and technology helps organizations  provide premium services to their patients with compliance and higher customer satisfaction. Healthcare providers can manage their business operations, catering to clients, and accurately diagnose and treat chronic illnesses through digital tools. 

    To reap maximum benefits, healthcare businesses should always get in touch with trustworthy software experts and express their needs to get tailored digital health solutions. Folio3 has decades of experience and a highly-qualified team to provide you with customized medical software solutions, making sure your clinic serves the best with the patient centric approach.

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