Massachusetts Digital Health Ecosystem Announces Healthy Aging Challenge

18 January 2023

The Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI), the lead agency for the Massachusetts Digital Health Ecosystem, is seeking digital health startups with a presence in the U.S. to compete in the Massachusetts Digital Health Sandbox Challenge Program. The first Challenge is aimed at finding unique digital health solutions that improve the lives of older adults and help them remain active, productive, independent, and socially connected. Challenge finalists will compete for prizes worth $200,000.

Challenge 1- Innovations to Support Healthy Aging

Challenge Circle Graphic

Challenge Goal

The UN recently announced that the world population reached 8 billion – an increase driven largely by people living better for longer. MeHI launched this Challenge to discover and spotlight digital health solutions that improve the lives of older adults and help them remain active, productive, independent, and socially connected.

In 2021, there were 55.8 million people aged 65+ in the United States. By 2030, the number is expected to rise to 72 million. Older Americans are currently hitting retirement age at a rate of 10,000 people per day. Older adults also want to remain in their homes and communities. But while nearly one-third of Medicare recipients living in the community reported a limitation in activities of daily living and over 80% of adults aged 85+ have at least one chronic condition, we have a growing shortage of paid caregivers.

In addition to the physical concerns, healthy aging is also about an individual’s mental, behavioral, cognitive, social, and educational well-being. Loneliness and social isolation are common risk factors for mental health issues, and 25% of adults aged 65+ reported anxiety or depression in 2020, up from 10% in 2018. Men aged 65 and older also face the highest overall rate of suicide. In addition, over 16% of people age 65 and older have Mild Cognitive Impairment and an estimated 6.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. Racial and economic inequities in accessing and receiving care are an undercurrent in all of the challenges to healthy aging.

This Challenge was designed to find digital health solutions that can help older adults live as well and independently as possible by supporting their physical, mental, and social health.

Program Overview

Startups and entrepreneurs with digital health solutions designed to support healthy aging are encouraged to apply.

Up to eight finalists will be selected to participate in the program and compete for prizes worth up to $200,000. Selected entrepreneurs will participate in a two-month, virtual Introduction to the Massachusetts Digital Health Ecosystem program. The introduction will include a speaker series featuring prominent voices from across the ecosystem, including venture capitalists, successful digital health innovators, and leading researchers. During the program, participants will also be assessed on their testing and validation needs and then matched with members of the MA Digital Health Sandbox Network, a group of cutting-edge research and development organizations supporting digital health companies. Participants will work with their Sandbox partners to scope detailed testing and validation projects.

The program will culminate in a judged competition in June 2023 where participants will pitch both their product and their Sandbox project. Judges will select four winners to receive $50,000 to complete their proposed Sandbox project. The funding must be used to cover the Sandbox fees. This level of funding can typically cover extensive user experience testing, access to cutting-edge lab facilities and subject matter experts, or a small pilot in a healthcare setting. Read about previous projects funded through the Sandbox Program here.

The deadline to apply is February 24, 2023
 
Download the Request for Applications for more information             

Watch the recording of the information session and view the slides here.
 
Early Application Opportunity: Applications submitted by January 27, 2023, will be reviewed by MassTech staff and will receive initial feedback by February 10, 2023. Early applicants may incorporate the feedback and resubmit their application by the final deadline of February 24, 2023. Please note this opportunity is applicable only to applications received by January 27th. Those received after January 27th will be reviewed through the normal application process.

Elderly Stats


Challenge Areas and Solutions Sought

The following are examples of challenges that we believe can be addressed by digital health solutions. This is not an exhaustive list and any applicants with ideas for supporting healthy aging are encouraged to apply.

All applicants should consider how their solution is targeting and supporting the unique needs of underserved populations, including addressing racial inequities, geographic limitations, accessibility concerns, broadband access, and digital literacy, among others. Applications that effectively address these considerations will receive priority.

Mental HealthPhysical HealthSocial Health
Key challenge areas impacting older adult’s mental health that can be addressed with digital health solutions include:The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of older adults;The increasing rate of substance use disorders in older adults;Support for older adults with cognitive impairment, including the 6.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease;The dearth of professionals with licenses and training to provide care for seniors’ mental and behavioral health challenges.Key opportunities to support older adult’s physical health and enable them to age in the place of their choice include:Preventing falls, which cost $50 billion in medical expenses annually;Disease management for the 85% of older adults with 1+ chronic conditions;Medication management and adherence solutions for the nearly 90% of older adults who are currently taking any prescription medicine;Solutions for the 40% of older adults who report trouble with mobility.Key areas of opportunity to address the social determinants of health that impact the well-being of older adults include:Addressing issues of loneliness and social isolation;Providing opportunities for lifelong learning and continuing education to support cognitive health; andAddressing the transportation, housing, and food security barriers that impact older adults’ health and access to care.


Solutions to these challenge areas may include the following, but all applicants with relevant solutions are encouraged to apply:

Remote monitoring devicesWearable tech solutionsAmbient intelligenceMental and behavioral health platformsSimplified telehealth solutionsCare coordination toolsAssistive technology devicesVR/AR toolsMobile applicationsVirtual programming and services

Eligibility

  • Applicants must propose a new solution that is not yet widely commercially available.
  • Applicants may be located anywhere in the US. MeHI has set a goal of 50% of the participating companies having a presence in Massachusetts.
  • The Introduction to the Massachusetts Ecosystem speaker series will be virtual, however, participants must be willing to participate in a live pitch event at the end of the program. The pitch event will take place in June 2023 and is currently being planned as an in-person event in Massachusetts.

Participants in the program must agree to participate in annual, follow-up surveys after the end of the program. The survey will ask about company metrics, including:

  • Number of jobs created at your company
  • Number of new customers gained
  • Number of new patents, copyrights, or trademarks obtained
  • Diversity of your board members and/or executive team
Apply for the Challenge
Deadline: Feb 24, 2023
Download the
Request for Applications
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