Migraine is a debilitating neurologic disorder that affects approximately 14% of the general population in the United States. It is three times more prevalent in women than in men and often affects people in their most productive years (age 25–55 years), causing a substantial effect on the functionality and quality of life of affected individuals. It is also the second leading cause of global disability, with the World Health Organization considering chronic migraine to be more disabling than blindness or paraplegia.
Elizabeth Burstein, cofounder and CEO of Neura Health – a virtual neurology clinic, recently recognized in Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards for the second consecutive year, started the company because of her own struggles with a trapped nerve.
“I sat on a six-month waitlist to see a neurologist, even in New York City where there is a high density of specialists. After my initial neurologist appointment, I noticed a significant gap in follow-up support. There was no way to easily engage with my specialist to discuss medication dosage adjustments, questions about lifestyle, and other needs, despite the fact that my condition is chronic. From my background at other leading digital health companies, like Maven Clinic and ZocDoc, I knew there had to be a better way, to use technology, to get people the care they need for neurological conditions,” she explains.
A Serious Gap In The Neurological Care Sector
She then went on a listening tour and spoke to hundreds of neurologists and patients across conditions like the headache, migraine, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. Across the board, there is a serious gap in care stemming from the nation’s shortage of neurologists. Burstein and her team decided to start with the headache and migraine because these conditions are highly prevalent, affecting one out of every six U.S. employees, which costs businesses $78 billion each year in lost productivity from absenteeism and presenteeism. The incremental cost of medical claims for a patient with a migraine compared to a patient without a migraine is $3,088 per year.
She adds that part of the struggle that she and many others face stems from the fact that “employers aren’t well-equipped to help people living with these conditions, despite their overwhelming prevalence and effect on productivity in the workforce.” This applies to 130 million Americans living with chronic neurological conditions, such as headache, migraine, and sleep disorders.
“The result is that employees living with these conditions are forced to miss work more often and can’t be their most productive selves even when they are at work.”
Supporting Patients With Chronic Conditions
Neura’s end-to-end solution offers those living with neurological conditions unlimited online care team access, one-on-one care coaching, and a personalized treatment plan, and aims to dramatically reduce wait times to hold a visit with a neurologist from four to six months to just 48 hours.
Today, the company announced it has raised $8 million in seed funding in a round led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (Oshi Health, Neuralight) and Norwest Venture Partners (Calm, Talkspace, Omada Health). Pre-seed financiers Pear VC (Doordash, Gusto) and Next Play Ventures (Ginger, Headspace) also participated in the round, as did new investors Correlation Ventures and Plug and Play Ventures. The funding will allow Neura to expand its go-to-market approach, moving beyond the consumer market to bring the company’s neurology care offering to the enterprise sector, with an initial focus on employers and health plans. This latest $8 million financing round builds upon Neura’s $2.3 million pre-seed round, which the company closed in 2021.
“Neura has built a proven solution to provide relief for individuals experiencing headache and migraine disorders,” shares Brendon Durkin, managing director of Koch Disruptive Technologies, with me. “We’re excited to support Neura as it embarks on its next phase of growth – bringing its solution to more people via an expanded go-to-market strategy and making a significant impact for those living with major neurological conditions.”
“The last several years have shown us that digital tools can be invaluable in supporting people with chronic conditions,” said Parker Barrile, partner at Norwest Venture Partners. “Neura is the first to effectively apply these tools to the previously underserved population of those with headache and migraine disorders, and we’re happy to support their continued growth as they solve this critical market need.”
Caring For Employees – Win-Win For Everyone
Following its focus on working with employers, the company recently announced a channel partnership with Switchboard Health, a tech-enabled network of virtual specialty care companies available for employers to offer as a benefit. Burstein shares how, through that collaboration, she learned that employers are indeed looking for ways to offer their workforce access to accessible, quality specialty care in the neurology category, and to proactively treat neurological conditions by getting their employees on the right combination of medications and lifestyle changes, and proactive healthcare support.
She highlighted how, now for the first time, patients living with chronic neurological diseases have a platform to share their symptoms in real-time with a dedicated care team, powering proactive outreach from specialists when outcomes are regressing. As per Burstein, Neura is also the first headache-benefit solution with clinical outcomes published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, Headache. The report revealed that Neura delivers measurable benefits to patients, with a 73% median decrease in the number of ER and urgent care visits, a 75% median reduction in headache frequency, and a 67% median reduction in headache severity after three months of Neura membership.
“Moving forward, we plan to expand our solution beyond the headache and migraine to other major neurological disease categories, such as sleep disorders and neurological pain. We’re excited to enter the enterprise market so that we can help more people get the care they need. I’ve been there, so I know how much they need it and deserve it,” she concludes.
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