Here's A Story About A Startup You'll Cherish, Possibly With Your Life

Launching a new business in the middle of a global pandemic may be an anathema for most startups, but for some, it can actually represent an opportunity to fulfill consumers' new and unprecedented unmet needs. That’s what long-time Madison Avenue health and wellness agency creative chief Elizabeth Elfenbein is experiencing as she makes the entrepreneurial leap as part of the team launching Cherish Health, a 100% digital-based platform created to help people stay healthy at home.

Elfenbein, a MediaPost All Stars alum and former partner and creative chief at independent health and wellness agency The Bloc, actually left the ad world and was working as chief creative officer of Comcast NBCUniversal’s Health Innovation division where she was helping to develop new products along those lines when she met Sumit Nagpal, first as an Accenture consultant advising the Comcast team, and then as the head of the Comcast unit, and ultimately as part of the team behind a new startup focused on utilizing digital technology and data to help people manage their wellness remotely.

Cherish Health was initially conceived to focus on creating products to help the most at-risk portion of the population -- the elderly -- stay healthy via a variety of ambient devices that monitor and provide feedback on their health and wellness. When COVID-19 hit, the team quickly adapted the model to aid an entire population stuck at home.

“Hospitals are overwhelmed, understaffed and ill-equipped to deal with the onslaught of patients that the COVID-19 crisis has thrust upon them,” Elfenbein explained during a recent Zoom meeting, adding: “Any reduction in the numbers of patients they are seeing would be a positive.”

The result is Project SAFE@HOME, Cherish Health’s pivot to adapt its platform from remote, ambient care for the elderly to an “ecosystem of products and services” to help health systems and the community contain the COVID-19 crisis and keep the entire population safe at home.

“We are working hard with our partners to take some of the pressure off of their health systems with in-home monitoring tools and services,” said Cherish CEO Nagal, noting: “Project Safe@Home was designed to help to manage the COVID-19 crisis based on CDC-recommended care pathways.”

A core component of the initiative is the application of Cherish’s “Serenity” patches -- disposable biosensor patches capable of monitoring people’s health remotely at home -- coupled with a “national-scale command center, medical tele-health consultation, as well as on-demand and locally-sourced nursing, para medicine and EMS support to allow infected individuals “to remain safe where they live, receive virtual and in-person care as their condition progresses.”

The pivot is a great example of a wave of startup entrepreneurs rushing to support and complement the nation’s healthcare system via technology and business model innovation.

It’s also a new career path for Elfenbein, who left the agency world because she was itching to grow beyond simply creating communications strategies and messages to support health and wellness products and services, and to actually make them.

Although she did create a number of products while serving as CCO of The Bloc, she joined Comcast -- and ultimately Cherish Health -- because of the resources to really scale the launch of them. As important as development of products is, Elfenbein is also hyper-focused on their branding and messaging, so not surprisingly, the launch includes a public service-like series of films created by Australian cinematographer Matt Butler utilizing an innovative montage of time-lapse and filters to show people moving through urban landscapes such as New York City.

“It very naturally [tells] the story of COVID-19,” Elfenbein said, adding: “When I saw his film, I imagined how we could build a visceral call to action as it’s kind of like a live human petri dish that spreads the virus. Or as another person referred to it as, ‘a human epidemiology study’.”

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