This Startup is using AI to Help Doctors Make Decisions

From research paper to business plan, Spring is combating depression by utilizing machine learning.

One in four people are currently treated for some form of mental health condition. Today, the treatment process goes something like this:

Go to the doctor. Share symptoms. Get prescribed a drug. Try the drug for a few weeks or months. Realize your conditions have not changed. Go back to the doctor. Share symptoms. Get prescribed another drug with another dosage.

The cycle goes on and on. In fact, 11–30% of patients experience recovery from their first antidepressant, the majority face a long process of trial and error. This process has both psychological and financial repercussions — mental health costs Americans $95 billion each year, making it one of the costliest medical conditions.

To combat this problem, Rough Draft Ventures is excited to support Spring, a tool that aims to combat depression by utilizing machine learning. Founded by April Koh, Abhishek Chandra, and Adam Chekroud a team of Yale PhD and undergrads, Spring’s machine learning algorithms uses just 25 questions to match patients to the right antidepressant and are 65% more effective at first-diagnosis than providers that do not use the tool.

Spring founder April Koh pitching at the Harvard-Yale Pitch Off (November, 2016)

Despite being an undergraduate, April Koh brings significant startup experience: In 2013, she dropped out of Yale to found contextual commerce company Spylight. After a year and a half, she decided to finish her degree and focus on the problem she most deeply cares about: mental illness.

At Yale, April and her soon to be co-founder Abhi Chandra came across a Yale PhD student’s published researched on machine learning models that outperformed psychiatrists in predicting treatment outcomes for depression. Intruiged, they immediately reached out to the author and neuroscience PhD candidate Adam Checkround. The three got to talking and teamed up to commercialize the research.

To validate their market for their research, the three began by surveying and interviewing more than 200 doctors in order to understand their needs. With this validation, the team began building out the full tool for Spring.

Spring founders Adam Chekroud, April Koh, and Ahishek Chandra

Spring’s AI-diagnostic tools are currently piloting with providers such as Yale NewHaven Health, Advantia, and Saint Francis, and more recently over 700 patients had taken Spring’s test through word of mouth referrals. April sees this as validating the demand of struggling patients seeking to find a more personalized treatment plan.

Looking back at her time at Yale, April is grateful for the support that the University provided — from early funding through grants to the ability to hone their messaging and validate their business models through pitch competitions. “At school, you’re around some of the most brilliant, passionate people in the world. School is a great place to find future cofounders, and the support we received from the university in the early days was instrumental to our progress.”

Having founded a company previous, April understands the first few hires are critical to the success of the company and set the tone of the startup’s culture. Accordingly, they’re focused on building a strong team of engineers passionate about eliminating trial-and-error in medicine and helping patients recover faster. In the next few months, the team will continue deploying their technology in larger health systems in effort to amass one of the largest behavioral health data sets in the world.

We’re excited to support April, Abhishek, and Adam as they move the company to New York and continue helping mental health patients get better faster. To learn more, check out at Spring and follow them on Twitter at @spring_health.

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