I often get asked how I came up with the idea of Kismet Health. I like to say that it’s truly been a lifelong journey. As a Native Alaskan, I was born on a small island in the Aleutian Chain called St. Paul Island. In order to get medical care, my community and I relied on two primary ways of accessing care: speaking to doctors over the phone, or getting a medical air evacuation (medi-vac) to either Anchorage, Alaska or Seattle, Washington.
I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic condition when I was a child. Because of my diagnosis, I have been deeply familiar with how access to care can mean life or death. The memories of my mother calling the doctor to determine what was going on were stressful enough, and were further amplified by the uncertainty that medivac may not even be an option given the harsh weather we oftentimes endured.
For generations, my entire family has felt the pain of lack of access. My grandmother had polio as a child, and my great-grandmother had to beg a sailor to take her to the closest children’s hospital in Seattle, Washington. This saved her life, but as a result, she sadly spent 5 years of her life from the ages of 3 to 8 living in this hospital without seeing any of her family members. Because of these experiences, I knew that I always wanted to work in medicine. At a young age, I envisioned a world in which every village or remote location would have access to life-saving care.
Fast forward some years, I found myself living in the metropolitan San Francisco Bay Area as a newly-graduated child psychologist providing care within the county’s medical system. I began to see similar access issues facing my patients that I remembered facing myself. For example, I had patients who couldn’t afford gas to get into my office or patients who needed specialty care but were placed on waitlists that were years long.
It was in 2018 when I realized that the answer had to lie within technology to enable quality access and equitable outcomes. I began to deeply understand and experience that problems with existing solutions went beyond security and quality – historically, telehealth platforms have primarily been designed for business meetings, adult engagement, and rely heavily on verbal communication. Kids are not tiny adults. They have their own hospitals, specialty providers, and medical instruments, so why wouldn’t kids also need technology that is created specifically for them?
During my 10+ years as a provider working with the pediatric population, I’ve found that play is the language of children (especially for the 0-5 age group, which is my specialty). On my own, I began to develop a tool chest of ways to engage kids, from puppets and dressing up my dogs in costumes to encourage kids to look at the screen, to setting up multiple cameras, sending at-home play kits — you name it.
However, I was spending so much time being IT support. While telehealth helped me ensure 70% less no-shows, my ability to see more patients was impacted by having to do longer sessions to account for tech issues, setting up, and getting the kids to engage, which I was not getting paid or reimbursed for. I started writing down what my ideal telehealth platform would look like. I imagined built-in therapeutic games and clinical focus controls. I quickly saw how my ideal product not only solved the access issue, it also simultaneously addressed one of the other major barriers children and families face today: quality care.
With this realization, I began my journey to develop the technology that has become Kismet today. We’ve been able to hire an amazing team who understands the unique needs and challenges faced by providers and professionals who work with children and how that translates into a tech product. We know this is just the beginning of our journey in revolutionizing telehealth for children and families. With long-term impact from the COVID-19 pandemic and pediatric mental health at an all time low, we envision our tools to not only allow for better and more playful engagement, but to also help in diagnostics and allow for seamless communication between providers.
We’re excited to create the difference that having better tools and technology will make as it enables providers and practitioners to engage with even the most rural family. With a few clicks of a button, a family is able to access the best quality care to engage, delight and treat all within one platform. Our long term goal is to ensure that every child and family has access to the care that they need, regardless of where they are located so that even children out on St. Paul Island can get care without leaving their home.