Recurring phases of depression usually originate from difficult life situations. These experiences trigger a learned pattern of negative thoughts and emotions. Not all sufferers get support for fixing these negative thinking patterns.
“The biggest problem in depression treatment is that people get their medication, but then end up home alone or in a queue waiting for therapy”, says Meru Health CEO Kristian Ranta.
Meru Health is currently developing an application to treat depression based on Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which uses mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness means being present and aware of one’s own feelings and thoughts. Therapy is clinically proven to be effective in dealing with depression. It also decreases the probability of recurrent depression periods.
“Practising mindfulness teaches the patient to notice when their negative thoughts start running in circles. The patient can then be more objective and neutral about them.”
The app includes an eight week therapy schedule. The patient can keep track of the daily schedule and talk with their therapist and support group in real time.
From hobby to startup
While working at their former company Mendor, Ranta and Riku Lindholm noticed that digital technologies have a real impact on healthcare and wellbeing. Mendor established a cloud service that allowed both diabetics and their doctors to keep track of the patient’s blood sugar changes.
Ranta has practiced meditation for several years. During a ten-day meditation camp he realized how strong an impact meditation has on his life.
“Daily meditation has influenced how I see myself and others. We want to give the world something that improves it, not the other way around. You can do good business with your heart in the right place, too”, Ranta says.
In 2015 Ranta, Lindholm and Albert Nazander founded Meru Health. Their idea was to build a product with mindfulness and measurable meditation. Besides its’ three founders, today Meru Health employs one person full-time. Moreover, the company has an extensive group of advisors from neuroscientists to sales professional in the US.
Meru Health has offices in Helsinki and California, but product development is centered in Helsinki. The city has both top software development and health technology know-how as well as high quality research.
The Helsinki office is located in Startup Maria, a community house for tech startups established in an abandoned hospital building. Startup Maria Oy is a non-profit company supported by the City of Helsinki, and is well on it’s way to becoming the biggest startup center in the Nordic countries.
“This is exactly the kind of public service we appreciate. The city provides a space for meeting people, organizing events and networking. That means cultural nurturing of corporate life.”
In the joint of technology and research
Meru Health is currently developing its app further.
“During next year we intend to conduct the first clinical study which we aim to publish. We’re committed to developing our product in a scientifically sound way”, Ranta says.
The company is after international growth and is already looking into expanding to the US. First negotiations with possible clients are currently underway in Finland.
Ranta’s future visions concern developing metrics for following the effectiveness of treatment.
“Objective measurement, such as measuring brain potentials with electroencephalogram, offers therapeutists exact tools for taking care of patients.”
Digital healthcare is advancing at a fast pace globally. Ranta believes that Finnish healthcare and especially health technology exports will increase, and predicts that data analytics will be the next big hit in healthcare.
“Analyzing health data has huge potential, but isn’t really done at all at the moment.”
Picture: Jussi Ratilainen