With more than 25 years of combined experience in the oncology-specialty home care sector, Meg Maley and Jill Teixeira, both oncology nurses and University of Delaware graduates, realized that patients and their families needed tools to help them cope with stress.
The nurses had previously worked with Jon Brilliant, a founder of WellDoc and a pioneer of mobile and digital health products. Together, the trio created CanSurround, a digital health platform that users can access by a mobile phone, tablet or computer.
CanSurround incorporated in 2013 as a public benefit corporation (PBC), a for-profit corporation that balances stockholders’ interests with the interests of those who benefit from the product or service. Among the first 17 companies to incorporate as a PBC, CanSurround for many years was the only PBC based in Delaware.
After a seed round from angel investors, CanSurround turned to Leading Edge Ventures, a venture capital firm in Wilmington, for the series A round.
The founders, who piloted the CanSurround app with cancer centers, used their experience to develop the features, which include interactive journaling. A question-of-the-day prompts users to find meaning in the cancer experience and build resilience, Teixeira says.
Another element helps them examine one stressful thought at a time. “We have a tendency to believe our thoughts, and that can cause a lot of anxiety,” she says.
Guided imagery prepares users for surgery or treatment. CanSurround also features yoga videos, which are a boon to patients who are housebound due to their illness or a compromised immune system. The company plans to boost analytics to provide more targeted content to each user.
CanSurround does not recommend specialists or treatments. There is currently no peer-to-peer support. “We’re all about managing the thoughts between your ears,” Brilliant says.
The company markets the digital platform to cancer centers and health plans, which pay a monthly recurring fee. The fee is based on the customer’s anticipated population of patients living with cancer.
CanSurround currently has national and international users, who stay engaged for up to two years. Because support is so important to stress reduction, users can add an unlimited number of family, friends and caregivers to their account.
In the future, expanding to cover another disease or chronic illness is a possibility. The company has also received requests from health care providers who need their own emotional support tools. But for now, CanSurround is concentrating on its core mission of giving cancer patients resources to ease emotional stress.