TryCycle Data Systems, a Canadian startup and proud member of the University of Connecticut Technology Incubation Program (TIP), is working to strengthen the relationship between people with addiction and their clinicians.
The company is on a mission to prove that, armed with more data, therapists, prescribers, and recovery coaches can help people with addiction stay in recovery longer, save lives, and lower healthcare costs for treatment providers, insurance companies, and families.
Innovation Destination Hartford spoke with co-founders John MacBeth and Ken House to learn more about their innovative technique.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: Give us a little background about the company and your startup initiative.
JOHN MacBETH: TryCycle is a play on words. A tricycle is an inter-dependent system with three wheels, so we have three wheels too: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and a digital component that provides data to caregivers.
IDH: Tell us about your technology. What makes it unique?
JOHN: What we believe is unique about our solution is the dependency on human beings. TryCycle is not a self-help, do it yourself solution. Our simple, yet powerful, technology was designed to help clinicians who want to help more people stay in recovery longer. Consider it an early-warning system like a radar or sonar system—we’ve created that type of approach for patients and clinicians who are commited to staying in recovery.
In a well-received TED Talk from 2015, British journalist Johann Hari said, “The opposite of addiction is connection.” We believe our solution helps with those connections.
IDH: Ken, you are in Newington, CT and John you are obviously in Canada. How did you two come together?
KEN HOUSE: We met at a master’s program at The Graduate Institute in Bethany, CT in October of 2013. We both saw that the other was a committed person who wanted to make a positive change in the world. We became fast friends. John wants to make the right changes for the right people and he does it because his heart is in the right place.
IDH: At what point did you realize you had a potential startup idea?
JOHN: I founded two other mobile technology companies before TryCycle. One of those companies, Mobileyes Consulting, had been working on a passion project that focused on helping nurses in remote locations in Canada deliver care to Indigenous and Aboriginal Canadians affected by or at risk of developing HIV, Hepatitis C, or Tuberculosis.
When Ken and I started our research, we realized there were a lot of similarities—basically the wrong approach was being applied. There was discouragement of opiate addiction. Many people are coming into the system and they’re not going out of the system. So, it needed a fresh approach.
Since we weren’t connected in the medical establishment, we didn’t have any preconceived ideas as far as how things were supposed to happen. So, we gave ourselves permission to ask “stupid” questions from the perspective of: Why do you do what you do?
We had a “eureka moment” when we saw the system had all these really committed people and empathetic professionals. There’s something not right as to why people are not getting out of the system. They just kind of stay in it. Very soon afterward Ken and I decided we were going to build this into a bona fide product.
IDH: How are you making that happen?
JOHN: In the company I run, we have the resources to put this together. And then with Ken being in Connecticut, and with all the contacts he had, we began to build those two things together. We started taking these ideas to the people who are in the field. The reaction was immediate. In my 20 years’ experience in business I’ve never encountered anything like this.
IDH: Why do you feel it’s important for TryCycle Data Systems to have a U.S. presence? And why Connecticut?
JOHN: Hartford is the most logical area where we wanted to invest. All the right ingredients are here. There’s a highly educated, highly motivated, very professional civil service—multiple services are already in place to help people. There’s a sophisticated ecosystem for people who are in recovery. So, we’re not coming into a place that’s lacking services or resources.
There’s also a problem. There are a lot of opioids in the Hartford area. In 2017, 1,038 people had fatal drug overdoses in Connecticut. So, it makes sense to go to a place that needs solutions, with a very strong business base and a desire to inspire hope through innovation.
KEN: The infrastructure is here. The state government is passionate about ending the battle against drug abuse.
Multiple clinics are now coming to us, having called us on their own and wanting to learn more. Even if they’re not quite ready—given resources and time and what they already do—every person we’ve encountered has connected us to someone. They’re opening their network to us.
No one wants to see people in their community struggle with drug abuse that’s entirely preventable. And not only is it preventable—and this is where my passion comes in—when someone with abuse has children, it increases the likelihood that their kids are going to become part of the system and become drug abusers themselves by 50%.
The addiction problem is getting worse. We’re already at a place where the number of people with addiction, the number of opiate overdoses each year, and the number of people dying from overdose are at an all-time high. We aren’t the only solution, but we’d like to be recognized a viable and trusted option.
IDH: How is your solution going to help with that problem?
KEN: As John said, TryCycle helps to create a real-time early-warning system of data to therapists, practitioners, support groups, probation officers, family, and friends within the support structure to become part of a circle of care. Risk data provided by TryCycle’s algorithm can help by providing advanced warning as someone heads toward a relapse.
IDH: What are the next steps for TryCycle Data Systems?
JOHN: We’ve brought together many great people to join our team and become our partners. We’re currently working with Hartford HealthCare to evaluate the effectiveness of TryCycle as a technology to improve patient outcomes.
We also have an active engagement of TryCycle with the Project Courage drug treatment centers in Old Saybrook, CT. In fact, our technology system helped keep one of their patients from a relapse earlier this year and we had the event verified by researchers at UConn. Our strong partnership with IBM & IBM Watson is a driving force behind TryCycle’s machine learning and AI platform.
We’ve been at this for almost two years and we are committed to making this work. We know the healthcare industry needs a major shift and we think TryCycle is one option that can help. We’re meeting with insurance companies, large clinics, state agencies, and representatives from state government in Connecticut and provincial government agencies in Canada. We are on our way.
IDH: How exactly did you develop this concept?
JOHN: This is what can happen when you try some upside-down thinking—disruption occurs. This is a disruptive concept and it required us coming at this from a diametrically different approach.
Really, the opioid crisis is such a catastrophe and the worst is yet to hit as more and more synthetic drugs are widely available and accessible.
The reaction to our solution has been nothing short of miraculous in how people are taken into it.
IDH: What you’re doing can make a huge difference.
JOHN: It’s going to need more than us. We have an idea. And we live in a very specific space in the circle of care. We can catch people before they relapse again, but it’s going to take a village of upside-down thinkers to look at the holistic circle of care to deal with this scourge and we’re just one idea in this.
We’re very proud of what we’re doing. We understand our role. If we can help a single-digit percentage, we feel that is huge success.
KEN: If we can cut just 1% of the amount of people who relapse in Connecticut, we can potentially save millions for the state economy in terms of the cost of care and treatment, the cost of incarceration, and the number of dollars lost due to activity and the cost of death.
Learn more about TryCycle Data Systems