A lot of innovation has gone into developing ways to help prevent, manage and treat chronic conditions that impose a burden on people’s daily lives and drive up health care costs.
But Calvin McGinn and Joyce Ann McGinn say too little attention is paid to substance use disorders, even though millions of people in the U.S. struggle with alcohol and drugs, including nicotine.
To fill this gap, they founded Compris, an early-stage startup with an online assessment intended to help predict addiction risk, as well as prevent onset and promote remission of substance use disorders. The company’s digital tool promises clinicians rapid reporting, level-of-care placement and targeted prevention and treatment. It also measures progress toward resilience.
Calvin is a family therapist and registered nurse with years of experience in family medicine education, care management and addiction counseling. Joyce Ann is an occupational therapist who works with people of all ages with chronic pain, developmental delays and other challenges.
“We want to treat substance use disorder like every other chronic condition,” Calvin says.
Despite decades of experience in health care and substance abuse treatment, the McGinns knew little about operating a successful startup.
“When we started the business, I didn’t know anything about running a business,” Joyce Ann says.
That began to change when they found MATTER, a Chicago-based global health care incubator and corporate innovation accelerator. MATTER guided them on how to start a company and helped Compris make valuable connections — including the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) Innovation Accelerator program.
“This is a great fit for sorting out how we can get this into health care to impact costs and lives,” Calvin says.
In partnership with MATTER, BCBSIL started the accelerator program to identify solutions that can influence health care beyond the doctor’s office.
Each early-stage startup in the accelerator program received $25,000 and teamed with three mentors from BCBSIL’s senior leadership to help inform their value proposition for health care payers.
Compris was paired with Dimi Dimitrova, senior director of data science; Jeslie Jacob, divisional vice president of provider analytics reporting and connectivity, and Yaw Ofosu, associate vice president of quality operations. Each mentor’s skillset helped Compris define its value proposition to potential customers.
“We’re giving them a behavioral health perspective, a business operations network perspective and a data science perspective,” says Ofosu — all angles Compris needs to successfully get providers and payers to engage with its technology.
Jacob has years of experience working with payer and provider data, as well as securing project funding. Ofosu was a substance abuse counselor before organizing quality improvement initiatives for the insurer. Dimitrova’s expertise is in quantifying product impact.
“Innovators are passionate about their products,” Dimitrova says. “Measuring how much value the product adds can make it easier for a customer to choose it.”
The three-month program culminated in a virtual Demo Day in October. Compris and the other two startups gave overviews of their solutions and shared what they learned.
“Health care badly needs innovation,” says Jacob. “There are small companies with good ideas to address problems, but they don’t know where to begin. A program like this can take people who have a prototype but need advice and help with their proof of concept — it goes a long way to spur innovation in health care.”