Bellevue-based Litesprite addresses chronic health conditions through mobile gaming

There are countless apps geared toward helping users manage their physical and mental health. However, one Eastside company is taking this concept a step further with a game that not only helps people manage their mental health symptoms, but also provides clinicians with the data they need to provide better care for patients.

The Bellevue-based company, Litesprite, combines mobile gaming with machine learning and big data to provide clinicians with a convenient, cost-effective way to monitor patients and improve health outcomes.

Litesprite founder/CEO Swatee SurveFounder Swatee Surve, who has a background in wearables and machine learning and has worked for Nike, T-Mobile, and Microsoft, started toying with the idea for Litesprite in 2012. Surve saw trackers and apps designed to help encourage physical fitness but nothing that used technology to manage chronic health conditions.

“What I kept running into and seeing is that there’s a lot of technology solutions — that’s not the problem. It’s motivating people,” she said. “If you really think about driving change, it’s behavior change.” And when it came to technology solutions for behavioral health, Surve said no one was even thinking about it. “All the health care stuff that was happening was around fitness and the healthy people,” she said.

Surve spent a year researching and talking with health care providers and insurance companies before officially launching Litesprite in 2013. Working together with clinicians and game developers, Litesprite debuted the beta version of its first game, Sinasprite, a year later.

The game — which helps users manage anxiety, stress, and depression — starts with Socks the Fox, an animated character with a dream of being a Zen master. Users engage with Socks by telling the pocket therapist their problems. Socks then guides users through evidence-based cognitive behavioral exercises to help them find balance and a state of calm. As users play the game, Sinasprite collects data that are shared with clinicians through a user-friendly, online dashboard.

“The response has been very strong, particularly with the Medicaid population, which is a very difficult-to-motivate population,” Surve said. “We’ve had patients where, three weeks after using (Sinasprite), they say it’s life-changing and their inspiration every morning. They feel better using it.”

By closing the loop and giving information back to clinicians, Surve said, Litesprite is a thought leader in its field, and — as far as she knows — the only video game being used in clinics today. “Clinics now have to provide data that they’re delivering care. That is a huge burden when they’re already trying to deliver health care,” Surve said. “So, now they’re looking for solutions that can give them basically status reports and metrics that they can provide back to an insurance company, or they’re trying to maintain quality measures and accreditation standards and even negotiate better contract rates with the state.”

But most importantly, Surve said, clinicians can use the data to improve care and health outcomes. With the data that are collected and delivered through Sinasprite, Surve said, clinicians can monitor patients outside of the clinic, which is key for individuals with certain afflictions.

“(With behavioral health), you have an incident, and then you have to wait two weeks before you get an appointment, and then you don’t even remember what you were having an issue about,” Surve said.

The data create a picture of the incident for the clinician to review in the event that the patient can’t accurately recall the event at the time of the appointment.

Surve believes Litesprite is a pioneer in the realm of health care entertainment, which she describes as experiences or activities that educate and help patients improve their health in a fun, playful, and enlightening way. “There are a lot of meditation apps, and there are a lot of fitness apps,” Surve said. “But this is different because it’s about integrating into someone’s health care, and it’s bringing in the clinician in a very meaningful way.”

Litesprite creative director Sean WatsonLitesprite creative director Sean Watson agrees, and said Sinasprite is just one example of how health care entertainment has the ability to change the way chronic health conditions are treated. “I think that Litesprite is definitely ahead of the curve in terms of thinking and innovation,” Watson said. “There’s Sinasprite, but really, it’s a platform. When you look at all the pieces together — clinician, game, patient — that intersection — there’s this nice bridge and a sort of connection that I think can be beneficial across multiple generations and demographics.”

Since its inception, Litesprite has received awards, grants, and in-kind support from the U.S. Surgeon General, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, U.S. Army, SXSW, Singularity University, and Livestrong Foundation, and has established strong partnerships with Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, SinfoníaRx, and Cascade Behavioral Health. Most recently, Litesprite partnered with a high school in Seattle to make Sinasprite available to the school’s Study Skills students.

Currently, Sinasprite is available to users through employers and insurance firms, but Surve said Litesprite is planning on a commercial release of its Socks the Fox game later this year.