Bio: Jessica has worked in the cancer care industry for over 10 years with a focus on digital innovation and patient centricity. She is a grad school alum of Vanderbilt University and has spanned the industry from patient facing to biopharmaceutical but in recent years has become increasingly interested in the intersection of artificial intelligence and business strategy. Having lost her mother to breast cancer at a young age, she eventually decided to join forces with co-founder Monica Schmiede to innovate within women’s cancer forming Athelo Health. Jessica is a proud descendant of the Wahpeton Oyate Sioux tribe, wife to her partner Kelly, formerly homeless social activist and committed dog and cat mom.
Org Info: Athelo Health is the first biometric anchored virtual coach for women with breast and gynecologic cancers. Athelo integrates across the most common wearable devices to help patients understand what’s happening in their body and provide actionable insights. Our platform is founded upon three pillars: biometrics, health literacy and peer connection. Athelo Health is committed to the equity of access and quality of care to all women with cancer because we believe no woman should have to attend medical school to simply understand their journey to wellness.
What motivated you to pursue your current work?
In the late 90’s my mother found a lump in her breast that (after months of advocating for her health) turned out to be aggressive inflammatory breast cancer and 9 months later, I lost her a few days after I turned thirteen. After over 10 years of working in clinical trials and cancer care, with a graduate degree, I am still amazed that my mother continued to advocate for herself when met with a healthcare system that wasn’t designed to support someone who came from an indigenous and financially and educationally disadvantaged background. We started Athelo to build tools for women like my mother in an effort to align all stakeholders to provide whole patient and culturally proactive care.
What distinct value does your work bring to the digital health field?
We have built a tool that uniquely captures real world evidence and metrics for our customers while keeping the patient and health equity at the center. We are the first biometric anchored virtual coach for breast and gynecologic cancer patients that focuses on accessibility, health literacy, and peer connection. Cancer care is complicated but the tools we provide patients and customers don’t have to be.
How does your work impact your target end-users or stakeholders?
For pharmaceutical companies we are able to provide robust data around adverse events, patient adherence and duration of therapy among patient populations who may not have been included in the clinical trial process. For payers and providers, we have created a tool that does not overburden an already strained system while ensuring patients are engaged and supported in ways our system has not traditionally provided to at-risk populations. We believe this approach will align stakeholders to progress cancer care within value-based care models.
What is one exciting update or near-term opportunity that you would like to share with the digital health community?
We are thrilled to have joined the Optum Startup Studio with the goal of creating partnerships within the UnitedHealthcare and Optum network in early 2023. In addition we will spend the next 12 months as one of five companies led by underrepresented founders working with the California Health Care Foundation to help companies like ours break into Medi-Cal, the most progressive and innovative Medicaid system in the US.