Dublin Telemedicine Startup Apportis Prepares for Opioid Challenge Finals
Philip Payne started Dublin telemedicine startup Apportis in 2015, after a career in product marketing and product development began taking him too far from home and away from his young family.
His initial idea consisted of a HIPAA compliant, health and wellness platform connecting patients with doctors and nutritionists through embedded video components, and accessed on a device like a cell phone or PC.
But when the Ohio Third Frontier Opioid Technology Challenge came along in 2017, the company considered modifying the platform it had already created. The company entered the connect category of the challenge, which is specifically geared toward communication technology solutions that give people with addictions in rural and remote areas an instant way to access resources during times of crisis.
“I thought, that is right in our wheelhouse,” says Payne. “We could make something that’s really powerful and that allows someone who’s suffering 24/7 access to a counselor and can get medication prescribed through the system.”
The modified platform now provides an exceedingly simple way of providing assistance to people with opioid addictions. With one tap of a button, someone who is suffering can anonymously speak to a local counselor or other healthcare professionals, while still giving counselors the ability to keep record and note any prior communications. If there is not a counselor nearby, the platform will search in the next town or county over. Apportis has also enlisted a counseling group that will provide 24/7 coverage, making sure there is always someone for people to speak to.
Payne says the company also wanted to avoid people having to download an app.
“To make software really simple, takes a lot of work,” he says. “Ours is it just a link that’s going to be distributed.”
“And then when they go to the link, it’s just a big red button: ‘I need help now.’ There’s no extra clicks, there’s no extra anything … And then you don’t have to log in,” he says.
A total of 56 companies out of nine countries entered the challenge; Apportis was one of 12 companies granted $200,000 in the challenge’s second phase, the only Central Ohio-based company to do so.
To prepare for the final phase, the company will soon begin distributing its platform, free of charge, to health departments, charities and Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADAMH) Boards in counties around the state. The company is also considering more confidential approaches to distribution, like providing the platform on kiosks, in churches or in shelters, and working with the Denial, Ohio campaign.
The company is currently working with Whitehall Assistance Fire Chief Chris Menapace to distribute the app via the department’s SAFE (Stop Addiction For Everyone) Station program, which gives people with addictions a safe space to seek help without any ramifications. Whitehall has been one of the hardest hit cities in the county with overdose rates five times higher than the county average.
“We’re finding the boots on the ground so we can distribute out and get it out there in the person who’s struggling’s hand. And it’s free to them,” says Payne.
Attached to the final stage of the challenge are four $1 million grants. If Apportis were to win, the grant would help distribute their product for market entry. But first, the company must prove the effectiveness of their product, which Payne hopes to distribute to all 88 counties in Ohio.
“We’ve got to convince [counties], ‘cause some health departments, some ADAMH’s Boards, believe that they have the thing under control, but the data shows they don’t,” he says. “Or they might believe in the 12 step program, which came out for alcoholism in the ‘20s. And that doesn’t work for opioid addiction.”
Each company in Ohio Third Frontier’s Opioid Technology Challenge has until July of 2019 to refine and prove the effectiveness of their product. Prize recipients will be announced in August 2019.
For more information on Apportis, visit apportis.com.
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