Jenny Shulkin, CEO and co-founder of Override, never set out to start a business. She received a degree from Harvard Law School and worked as a criminal defense attorney for several years. But she had another job that took up much of her time: managing her chronic pain condition. She and her father, David, a former U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, spent years trying to find a solution.
“We traveled the country looking at different relief options, pages and pages of treatments, drugs and devices tried and failed. We’ve really become experts in what’s wrong with chronic pain care,” said Jenny, whose company launched in Thursday.
What’s wrong is that care is fragmented, Jenny and David said. Surgeons, primary care physicians, and psychologists provide their own form of treatment without communicating with each other. That’s why the father-daughter duo decided to launch Replacementwhich serves as a virtual one-stop shop for chronic pain patients without prescribing opioids. The name refers to the “override” of neural pain pathways in the brain. In addition to its launch, the Philadelphia-based startup also announced a $3.5 million seed round and the acquisition of a pain education company, Get Courage Coaching.
Override provides patients with a care team that includes a pain doctor, physical therapist, psychologist and coach. Patients begin with a virtual assessment process where they meet in person with each person on the care team. The team works together to create a plan for the patient, who then receives ongoing care and is able to schedule appointments and messages with their providers via a desktop computer or Override’s app.
“We’re focusing on getting the interdisciplinary team talking to each other, collaborating around the patient, rather than just focusing on their individual disciplines as providers,” David said in an interview.
Patients receive coaching from Override’s Take Courage Coaching business, which also offers coaching as a stand-alone service. Through the coaching model, the company offers individual sessions as well as group sessions that include peer support. In addition, Override helps educate patients about the neuroscience of pain, neuroplasticity, and the tools they can use to manage their condition.
The $3.5 million seed round was led by 7wireVentures and included participation from Martin Ventures, SignalFire and Confluent health. Some of that money was used to acquire Take Courage Coaching, but is also being used to grow the team, develop the product and pilot programs with health systems, employers and payers.
Although Override has a primarily B2B business model, its services are also available directly to consumers, who can book one-on-one appointments with a clinician or pain coach. Prices for these sessions range from $45 to $90 per appointment. Patients can also get a full monthly package, the cost of which varies depending on their needs. In addition, Override works with vendor groups so they can collaborate with the company’s team of experts.
“Primary care physicians and pain physicians actually have a component of the model, but they may not have a whole team around them,” David said. “So we work with them to create a complete experience.”
Override’s competitors include musculoskeletal pain companies such as Hinge health and Health of the sword. But while they’re helpful for acute care patients, they usually don’t work for patients with chronic pain, Jenny said.
David has had his own journey in the chronic pain space, watching veterans suffer from similar conditions to his daughter’s. The Override model was actually inspired by a Veterans Affairs program that was put in place when David led the department, he said. The brick-and-mortar program involved an interdisciplinary team that supported and educated veterans on how to manage their condition. A study program has shown to reduce total care costs by 30% in the first 12 months and significantly reduce opioid use. David and Jenny decided to create a similar model, but transfer it to a virtual platform.
“When we looked at the effectiveness of this [VA program]it was a much more efficient model than anything we had seen in our travels with Jenny around the country,” said David.
Ultimately, Jenny hopes to help patients like her get around the struggles she experienced.
“I’m trying to help other people avoid what I had to go through … I hope to make care more convenient, more accessible, more empathetic and really have all the pieces in one place,” she said .
Photo: David and Jenny Shulkin