Game On: How Augmented Reality Is Revolutionizing Patient Engagement

Year Founded

2015, but pivoted to healthcare in 2017


Ann Arbor, Michigan

Company Stage

Late Seed

Imagine you’re in the hospital waiting for a procedure when suddenly a nurse hands you a mobile device and tells you to play a game. You might think you’ve lost touch with reality, but you’re actually experiencing the power of augmented reality (AR) in healthcare! AR adds digital experiences to the real world and allows you to experience them at the same time. An AR platform doesn’t just distract you from your pain and discomfort, it actively engages you in your own care. Whether you’re playing a game to improve your mobility after a procedure or learning about what to expect before and after surgery, an AR platform is like having a personal coach by your side.

That’s the idea behind SpellBound, a patient engagement platform full of AR games that involves patients in their own care. Currently, it’s available at some pediatric specialty hospitals in Michigan and Minnesota, but will soon expand to the adult healthcare market.

Company mission: To help hospital care teams create moments of magic for pediatric patients.

Questions and Answers

What compelled you to create SpellBound?

I was already in the startup space, but I had a personal experience with my youngest daughter, who had a traumatic hospital experience after her pain and fear were not properly managed, which solidified that I wanted to address patient experience in healthcare.

Tell us more about the technology. How does it work?

SpellBound is a patient engagement platform of augmented reality (AR) games and activities that is delivered through mobile devices (smartphones, tablets).

The AR platform engages patients in their own care. Our current portfolio of games improves the assessment and management of inpatient pain, encourages mobility after procedures, educates patients before and after procedures, and distracts from distress. The hospital provides the game (and usually the mobile device as well) to the patient and the patient simply opens the app and points the device camera at one of our print materials (wall decals for a mobility game, or small cards for distraction, etc.). The interactive AR experience overlays digital worlds on top of the hospital environment and is effective at engaging patients in activities that are necessary for recovery and discharge from the hospital.

Who are your customers?

Right now, we focus on pediatrics, so our customers are any hospitals that care for children. SpellBound can be found in pediatric specialty hospitals like C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital here in Michigan, as well as in rehab hospitals like Gillette Children’s in Minnesota and even specialty care hospitals like MD Anderson Cancer Center. We focus on providing tools to departments with a lot of planned procedures, like oncology, surgery, orthopedics, and cardiology. But soon we will be expanding to adult care because adults have distress around hospital visits too and need help engaging during their patient journey.

How did you get connected to MedHealth? What has MedHealth done to help your business?

MedHealth has been supporting us from the start. We really appreciate the events that help us grow our business network for sales, investment, talent, and advisors. And these connections span the U.S./Canada border, which is incredibly impactful as we plan for international growth. One of my favorite benefits has been connections with other healthcare companies and the long-lasting relationships I’ve gotten from those connections.

What’s next for SpellBoundin the months ahead? What are you working toward?

We are currently in the middle of the [National Institutes of Health] I-Corps program, working on our strategic commercialization plan for our new products and our entry into the adult market. We expect clinical trials of our mobility product to wrap up in the next year, but in the meantime, we are preparing for [Food and Drug Administration] approval and our reimbursement strategy.

What do you wish you knew when you were first starting that you know now?

It’s ok to not be an expert in everything and it is ok to have less-than-average skills. You are a CEO from day one, but the role will evolve as your company grows and you will grow with it. The best thing you can do for your company is spend your time pushing things forward, even if it’s in imperfect ways, and not obsessing over perfection. I have two favorite sayings now that stem from these early lessons: “Perfection is the enemy of progress,” and “It’s not about being right, it’s about understanding.”