Cincinnati Children’s Hospital spin-off screens conversations with artificial intelligence
Depression affects nearly 43.8 American adults and more than 300 million people worldwide. As an important mental health issue, hospitals, families and communities are looking for ways to provide support for their loved ones. That’s where Mason-based Clarigent Health comes in. With co-founders who are longtime players in the mental health space, the company’s app hopes to use artificial intelligence (AI) to study a patient’s language and detect any warning signs of suicide. With preventative care at the forefront of the company’s mission, this startup aspires to revolutionize how everyone from schools to clinicians handle and treat mental illness.
“The problem is that suicide rates are skyrocketing worldwide and there isn’t enough information about why and when people are about to commit suicide,” said CEO Don Wright. “So, we are looking to use artificial intelligence to try to determine if someone is experiencing suicide ideation. The app processes the conversation between a patient and a doctor and compares that to the words and speech patterns of those who have experienced thoughts of suicide. The whole idea is early detection — it’s a lot easier to treat these problems before they become acute instead of after.”
In a clinical setting, the Clarigent Health app would have a simple set up, allowing doctors to run the platform off a smartphone. Based on the algorithmic output, doctors could then determine whether the patient is experiencing acute suicide ideation, which would require hospital admittance, or if they should look for other treatment options like therapy or counseling.
“The reality is that suicide isn’t solved in the emergency department — that’s your last chance,” said Wright. “We hope to implement these products much further upstream in the process and use them at schools or pediatricians offices to screen for mental health issues before they manifest into bigger problems. This will allow for cheaper, more effective treatment. We need to start thinking of mental health visits as we would yearly physical checkups. A similar process for screening individuals with depression can give them much simpler treatment options.”
Both Wright and his co-founders are no strangers to the mental health scene in Cincinnati. Their previous company, Assurex Health, matches genetic insights with medication information to navigate mental health treatment. The company was acquired by Myriad Genetics back in 2016. They’ve also worked for many years with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, developing and licensing the technology that would later become Clarigent Health. With this background, Wright and his team hope to build a system of data that has the potential to help spot and treat everything from depression to anxiety and violence.
“The relationships we built between Assurex Health, Cincinnati Children’s and Clarigent have all been inspired by our mission to combine science and medicine, and they’ve all been made possible through the Ohio Third Frontier grant,” said Wright. “Without their help, there would be no Assurex story and no Clarigent story. And the Clarigent story is just beginning.”
With additional mentorship from CincyTech, a seed investor in both Assurex Health and Clarigent and an Ohio Third Frontier partner, Wright was inspired to give back to the startup community that has provided his companies with opportunity. While serving as an entrepreneur in residence at CincyTech, Wright mentored others who were looking to start their own businesses and wanted direction and advice.
“In Cincinnati, we don’t just want you to succeed or help you when you ask. The community here embraces you and will not let go until you succeed,” said Wright. “It’s a Midwest thing, we know how to help each other out. We’re excited to see how the community builds Clarigent Health and how we, in turn, will help the community.”