By Claudia Capos, Guest Editor
Low back pain is highly prevalent and recurrent in the U.S., affecting 30% of the population and costing insurance companies, health-care providers, employers and patients an estimated $100 billion a year, says David Grandin, president and CEO of Kiio in Madison, Wisconsin.
Back- and neck-related ailments also are the number one reason for the prescription of opioids, now an epidemic, and the number one payer burden for absenteeism and workers’ compensation.
Launched by Grandin in 2012, Kiio developed a “health engagement platform” that is now being used to improve results and reduce the costs associated with low back pain. Over the past year, the startup has raised strategic funding and signed multiyear contracts with three large health-care insurance companies in Wisconsin.
“Our platform is an integration of tools and content that delivers personalized care and aligns the interests of payer and patient,” Grandin says. “We have put together a mobile low back pain program that allows health insurers and self-insured employers to intervene early, effectively engage and empower their members and employees to improve their health and reduce the ineffectual utilization of treatments, including opioids, MRIs, epidural injections, specialist visits, x-rays and back surgery.”
Kiio’s multi-level algorithm includes a clinically validated screening tool to risk-stratify individuals suffering from low back pain and to identify those who are appropriate candidates for improving their condition through an exercise and education program available on their mobile devices.
“If you can take that portion of the population, which comprises over 70% of low back pain sufferers, and motivate them to help themselves early on, before they go down the slippery slope of opioids, epidural injections, MRIs and surgery, it is possible to achieve better outcomes at significantly lower costs,” Grandin remarks.
In January 2017, Kiio piloted its low back pain program for nine months at Quartz, a large health insurer in Madison. “We got outstanding clinical results,” Grandin reports. While it is too early to calculate the actual quantitative impact on the insurer’s bottom line, Kiio’s financial-return model projects its clients stand to realize ROIs above 500% for the cost-savings they achieve on medical services alone.
At the 2017 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium last May, Grandin made a presentation to investors in an effort to raise a $5 million Series B round of financing. “I met multiple potential investors,” he reports. “Our story was appealing to them, and we’ve kept in touch.” Grandin hopes to close on the B round in the first half of 2018.
In August, Kiio raised $1 million in strategic funding from WEA Insurance Trust, which ensures 110,000 public employees in Wisconsin. “This is the best endorsement you can get,” Grandin says. “The funding carried us forward and allowed us to pursue our company’s vision.” A third insurer, Group Health Cooperative, also signed a multiyear contract to offer Kiio’s low back pain program to their employer groups.
“We’ve gone from nothing at the beginning of 2017 to having three customers signed with multiyear contracts,” Grandin says. “We have a nice pipeline of potential business, and we are solving an important and costly problem. We’re very excited about the future.”