Kavi Misri, founder of Rose

While the number of infections and deaths caused by COVID-19 has been well documented, the pandemic’s effect on mental health is still being measured. Clinicians who treat patients suffering from mental and behavioral health challenges have few tools at their disposal to meet remotely or monitor between clinical visits.

The remote mental health monitoring startup Rose began with just this problem in mind. Since late summer, Rose has seen a 2,000% growth in revenue and users, according to founder Kavi Misri. The COVID-19 pandemic created “an ideal storm” for Rose, he says: Social anxiety and isolation is increasing, while in-person doctors’ visits are decreasing.

“Clinicians need a service like Rose to keep abreast of their patients,” he says. “It’s a very scary thought for all stakeholders if you have patients with cognitive dissonance and you don’t know where or how they’ve been the last four, five months.”

The wider adaptation of Rose is an affirmation on multiple levels for Misri (Carey ’19), who wondered if he “committed career suicide” when he founded the digital health company two years ago after going through his own mental health challenges. Misri burned out after working 100 hours a week for seven years in health care investment banking and corporate development. Then depression set in.

“I learned very quickly that depression isn’t a passive state,” he says. “It takes over your entire body.”

When he saw the inefficiencies in mental health care, however, his personal experience met his professional experience to create Rose (“Recognition of Speech & Emotion”), which uses deep technology for early detection of depression and mood disorders while monitoring patients so their clinicians can have a more informed view of their progress between sessions.

Curated content on the mobile app can point patients toward solutions to build mental health resilience and coping mechanisms when outside the clinicians’ office. Users also can write in journals that Rose’s technology analyzes for semantics and tone to determine a patient’s condition. The company has taken all these factors and developed a mental health score for users, allowing doctors to stratify patients and decide optimal treatment plans. Eighty-five percent of users have improved their scores since August, according to Misri.

Before the pandemic, Misri spent five months in Johns Hopkins Technology Innovation Center’s Hexcite program, an early-stage digital health accelerator, speaking to 40 stakeholders about how to integrate mental health into the primary care setting. Rose had been building its remote patient monitoring platform because “we knew it was the product patients wanted and what the market needed to enable smarter mental health care,” Misri says. The company also participated in the Social Innovation Lab, Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ accelerator for social entrepreneurs.

In other words, Rose was not trying to make a quick buck, which is what Misri is seeing more and more companies try as the pandemic continues.

“We differentiate ourselves with our evidence-based approach backed by promising clinical trial results that enable partnerships with investors and hospitals,” he says. The company was selected in August for a pilot program to monitor the mental health of employees at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital emergency department in Boston. In early November, Rose announced a $1.5 million funding round and, in December, former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith became an investor and brand ambassador for the company.

Looking ahead, Misri envisions Rose continuing to grow, in part because it is eligible for reimbursement from insurance companies under an existing code. He hired salespeople who have relationships with doctors and practice administrators to get Rose past the mental health gatekeepers. He also is meeting with Chesapeake Digital Health Exchange, a federally funded partnership between Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and the Johns Hopkins Technology Innovation Center, to organize and enhance the digital health system in the Chesapeake region.

Misri is not expecting the 2,000% growth to continue indefinitely, but does expect the shift toward telemedicine — and digital health — to stay.

“It’s an unfortunate situation, what this pandemic has caused,” he says. “But it has really brought to light the beauty of telemedicine and the beauty and efficiency of how telemedicine can really save health care.”