Tim Fitzpatrick, IKONA Health - AMOI Interview | LSI USA '23

IKONA is a learning science company powering education in the management of chronic diseases, with an initial focus on chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Tim Fitzpatrick
Tim Fitzpatrick



Ben Glenn  0:11  

Say hello to my guest, Tim Fitzpatrick, LSI 2023. Tim, thanks for coming by the studio.


Tim Fitzpatrick  0:18  

Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.


Ben Glenn  0:19  

So what brings you out to LSI? This year?


Tim Fitzpatrick  0:22  

I'm here to share IKONA with the world and particularly with investors, strategics, and an incredible group of other innovators.


Ben Glenn  0:31  

So what is Ikona? What's the product? How do you change the face of healthcare


Tim Fitzpatrick  0:35  

icon, it is a VR learning platform that helps patients understand and transition on to new therapy options. And we're starting with dialysis. So we help patients overcome fears to pursuing something scary and new, like dialysis, for example, then help make sure they're successful once they make that decision. So how does the product work, we want patients who are stressed in their in an outpatient dialysis setting, you know, this is the first time they're finding out that their kidneys don't work as the first use case. We want them to feel safe, we want them to feel like they're in an environment where they can learn. So when we put a VR headset on those patients, and we work with clinical teams who are looking for ways to educate and engage their patients, because there's low staffed and busy, we want to put a headset on have a patient be able to spend five or 10 minutes understanding that this is what they can do show them a story, make them feel like they can do this, you know, build confidence, let them walk a mile in their future self shoes. And that's what that five or 10 minute experience is all about. And by the end, we see lower anxiety levels, we see increased level of understanding, and then importantly, more and more patients who are ultimately deciding to pursue all options, which is better for the patient.


Ben Glenn  1:52  

So it's storytelling and good clinical science all coming together.


Tim Fitzpatrick  1:56  

It is, and its it's kind of incredible, you know, you don't often think about storytelling as being something that has a place in medicine as a way to help patients appreciate the complexity of their care. But it certainly is that we've we've been surprised by a lot of our findings. And why is virtual reality, for example, more effective than a YouTube video, right? A really well done animation, it comes down to the neuroscience. And what's taken our team so long to understand is, why is VR as a delivery mechanism for experiences that people have called it an empathy machine, I think it's for good reason, the all of a sudden, patients who are stressed out are not able to take full advantage of their cognitive capacity. And when you put them in a safe environment, we see that level comes down. And now all of a sudden, they're open to new experiences. Maybe they've been on that treatment for years. And suddenly, they're open to trying something new. And these are these patients are in a tough circumstance. This is a life saving, life sustaining treatment that they're on. And the fact that we have the ability to bring storytelling into the mix to give them hope. Is just a dream come true.


Ben Glenn  3:10  

How did your team come together?


Tim Fitzpatrick  3:13  

Well, myself, I'm CEO, and I, I was patient. So I was in the military for seven years, my spent my last two years in the service in the hospital. And 18 of those months was surgeries, wound care, isolation, and complete pain. So my, my understanding of the patient journey is is clear. And thankfully, I healed I got out I was able to get my health back. And when I moved to New York to get out of the service and start my new life. I met two physicians and one of them had been a VR filmmaker, virtual reality filmmaker, prior to med school. And what they had been working on while I was a patient is this proof of concept around using VR to help patients who are going through surgery understand the day in the life of surgery. And they were curious how that might impact anxiety, overall experience. So when we met and I saw the proof of concept that they had studied at Dartmouth, it all came together it first of all, it struck a chord with me and I was covering emerging tech and technologies at a bank. That's my my next job. And I knew that was something I had to work on. So we we decided to launch the company in late 2016. 


Ben Glenn  4:25  

Tim, what branch were you in.


Tim Fitzpatrick  4:26  

 I was in the Navy, so not too far from here forbidden in San Diego and over on the east coast in station down in Florida. My last duty station. What did you do? I started out going through Special Warfare community. That was my first injury hurt my shoulders, then went through aviation, learn to fly then hurt my back. That's why I needed all the the additional surgery so did quite a bit. A lot of training. I spend a lot of time and training pipelines.


Ben Glenn  4:52  

Tim, congratulations. Getting picked for buds and aviation. You're like a wunderkind. Thank you for your service.


I appreciate that. 


And I think it's fascinating how, like so many entrepreneurs inside of healthcare, you're here because your own story plays right into it. What difference do you think this kind of treatment would have had on you when you were a patient?


Tim Fitzpatrick  5:14  

I think that question is kind of what keeps me going, right? I think this journey is incredibly hard. And one of the reasons that I'm here is because so many other founders are also here, and they've gone through the understand. And many of them are at further stages than than I am. So to hear their their stories of resilience is great. But all the every single day, you know, before I fall asleep, and wake up in the morning, the chance to work on IKONA is a true privilege and honor. Having my health is great. But the first thing I think about and when I saw that VR module, for the first time, was, this would have set the stage for me to know what's next. Most patients they ask that question when something bad happens when something's not quite right, when they're given a menu of options, or a stack of PDFs to say, hey, here's what to expect in your care journey. Their next question is, how am I supposed to understand this? And how am I gonna get through this? So to give them a chance to say, I can do this, and here's what it might look like. And now I have demystified the scary part of what could happen next. And I feel like I have the knowledge, the confidence in the skills to pursue this successfully. That's what matters to me at the


Ben Glenn  6:28  

end of the day, can you do have public information that you can share about the results that you've had or the number of patients that have gone through your, your, your VR therapy?


Tim Fitzpatrick  6:38  

We do so we've, we've been lucky enough to get non dilutive funding from the National Science Foundation to start conducting that early body of evidence. But we also just announced a partnership with Fresenius, who's the largest dialysis company in the space in the world and the United States. Really exciting we, because of our success together in serving patients, we're lucky enough to have just received a grant as part of COVID Cares Act funding to expand access to care in rural Mississippi. So rural communities where COVID had a disproportionate impact, where patients don't typically have access to home therapies. That's an area where, because we've seen at an average 41% reduction in anxiety, because we've seen increases of 50 51% in knowledge following a VR experience, we know that we're going to be able to increase the rate of patients choosing home, meaningfully in an area of the country that's typically underserved and doesn't have the staffing, the tools, the resources to be able to give patients a second chance.


Ben Glenn  7:44  

Well, you know, even here in California, we went through, there was a voter referendum about the way they were the way that we're, you know, handling dialysis. I think that we've got plenty of them. But still, the staffing I think you're hitting like a real sore spot nationwide. I mean, this is a, this is a huge problem for these patients.


Tim Fitzpatrick  8:04  

I think staffing in particular is a very difficult, complex set of problems. And solving staffing, requires policy decisions that requires very large organizations to rethink the difference between employment and contract workers and the level of skill and certification for certain positions on the care team, where we see an opportunity is so many devices and people upskilling future of work, new machines that are in the market, a lot of great companies who are here at LSI. This week, there's going to be a learning curve, no matter how or when a patient decides to go home. If that is the right decision, or transplantation or say it's a diabetes medication, there's going to be a time period where that patient is transitioning into something very difficult and challenging and behavior modification is at stake and ensuring that medication adherence in the example of transplantation. These are very, very tough things solve and a lot of what we're going to see in the future, is that care happening at home? Well, staffing at to your point, we can't possibly put enough staff, well trained staff in everyone's homes, who wants to receive care at home. So what if we had the benefit of something like virtual reality, augmented reality that's available anytime, anywhere on demand, and can deliver objective assessment and training information in real time to patients who need it when they need it? Right, we could solve many of the challenges that right now we're just question marks and almost being pushed down the road. Because the first order of business is absolutely post COVID. Making sure patients are safe, making sure they have access to care in ensuring that the shift to home care is one that lasts and we're not going to see and we have the capabilities for patients to be safe. It seems


Ben Glenn  9:59  

like you know I think Eat the kind of the elephant in the living room, whenever you want to send someone home is compliance, patient compliance like A1. So if you get the patient on the care team, like they're first and foremost on their own care team, sounds like you're enabling that.


Tim Fitzpatrick  10:15  

It feels that way. And we know how many unpaid caregivers there are in the world, we know how important that caregiver role the care partner role, though not necessary, plays an absolutely vital role in something like home dialysis, right? If you can increase the rate of transplantation, decreased mortality, increased quality of life, for patients who are pursuing those home therapies, what better way than engaging the entire family engaging the entire care partner ecosystem, so that it's not just the first piece of the equation of, hey, this is an option for you to pursue, but they can learn faster, learn more completely know that they're going to be okay when something bad happens, because things do go wrong at home. And what happens today is those patients are ending up in the hospital, they're ending up surprised, because they're not adequately prepared to remain adherent or to know what to do with the device or how to take the medication, I think we have a real opportunity to give confidence to those care partners who are caring for, for spouses for for their elderly parents, and for loved ones who, you know, are otherwise feel like they're on their own at all.


Ben Glenn  11:25  

Well, I'm really excited to see the results of your work for rural Mississippi. I think one of the veils that dropped during COVID was these vast, underserved communities. And it sounds like VR combined with you know, this education and reducing anxiety, maybe that's going to be one of the keys to unlock, you know, rural health and the United States.


Tim Fitzpatrick  11:46  

We feel like it is and we think with the right partners, both our existing commercial partners, but also the people we're meeting here, strategics, innovators, investors, they're the ones who are going to allow this to happen enable this to happen, right companies like ours, have great ideas, we have initial traction, we have shown that it works, we're going to continue to do that we're gonna continue to build new devices, new products that are solving some of these challenges. But at the end of the day, you know, as well as we do, collaboration is the only way to get to get there. And it takes the entire ecosystem, it takes understanding every stakeholders needs in kidney care, as complex as it is, it's a fifth of Medicare spend, we know where we have a lot of work to do to get that number down. But we couldn't be more excited we think it is it's absolutely one of the fundamental needs as we think about the future of care in the United States.


Ben Glenn  12:39  

Well, I know for myself, as I kind of get into like my fourth decade of, of my professional life, I look back on my time in the Navy, and it's like, the teamwork that I want to see in health care is the same team that I saw on the fleet. So I hope that you're gonna bring that teamwork from buds, seals, and then everything you saw on aviation, I think it's very hilarious. Watch people watch top gun Maverick. It's like, yeah, the guy in the plane is like tip of the spear. There's an army Well, there's a crew of people that are behind them that get them into that cockpit every single time. That's why I love the opening sequence of Top Gun. It's like you actually see how many people there's a lot of assets on that deck to make sure that one aircraft gets off gets fueled the whole thing. So I hope you bring that to what we that's what we need in healthcare.


Tim Fitzpatrick  13:24  

I can't appreciate you more for sharing that. I mean, I I'd be lying if I said that first movie wasn't the reason I joined it. My dream was to fly an F 14. They retired at the year before I got in. So yeah, I'm with you that opening scene has defined a large portion of my life.


Ben Glenn  13:41  

Yeah, Tim, thanks for coming by the studio.


Tim Fitzpatrick  13:45  

Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure. 


Production crew  13:48  

Tim Fitzpatrick take one marker.


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