Centerton couple develops new app that aids caregivers of medically complex kids

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 2,653 views 

Ashley Gibbs and husband Ryan Sheedy of Centerton founded a medical app called mejo.

A Northwest Arkansas startup has launched a web application that helps parents and caregivers simplify, organize and share their child’s medical and care information.

The app is called mejo, a registered trademark. Founder Ryan Sheedy of Centerton said he wanted a way to humanize data found in medical charts and make a child “more than their diagnosis.” Sheedy and his wife, Ashley Gibbs, have three young boys, one with an ultra-rare genetic disorder called Costello syndrome.

“I am a dad living this; we’re a family living this,” he said. “If it were just a company with an idea, it would not resonate. We have never done a startup before and do not have healthcare backgrounds. We are passionate about helping.”

Sheedy developed mejo’s first Beta prototype a few years ago solely for his family. The app went live on June 6 this year and had more than 400 users from around the country within the first month.

Sheedy said he and his wife bootstrapped the business — “we’re scrappy but smart,” he joked — but a pair of angel investors also backed mejo. Businessman and entrepreneur Nick Dozier and pediatrician Bryan Harvey, both of Rogers, are personal friends of Sheedy.

Harvey, a pediatric provider for nearly 30 years, said having a standardized tool that succinctly lets parents document and track what is happening with their child’s health and care network is essential. That is especially true when accurately trying to convey the information to busy and sometimes unfamiliar providers.

Harvey said he invested in mejo because of its unique nature in the healthcare market.

“They hand-built an application that mirrors what they found is needed to do this in the best way possible,” Harvey said. “It’s a game-changer for parents and caregivers.”

Dozier and Sheedy once worked at the same company and have known each other for nearly a decade. Successful or not, Dozier said he invested in Sheedy’s idea because of its altruistic factor.

“Mejo was created for the ‘right’ reasons,” he said. “He [Sheedy] created it out of love, necessity and trying to help. In very early-stage investing, you are investing in the people more so than the product. In mejo’s case, you have a strong founder, and an even stronger product that is solving a real problem and helping so many. That is a combination for success.”

Sheedy said the company will soon open a pre-seed funding raise with a $500,000 goal.

“Right now, this is 100% free,” Sheedy said. “Users own their data, but our goal is to get enough users so we can build other offerings to generate revenue. Growing the number of users will allow us to form [business] partnerships to grow the business.”

Sheedy has had preliminary discussions with various rare disease organizations. He will also speak in September at the RARE Patient Advocacy Summit in San Diego. Nonprofit group Global Genes convenes the event annually as one of the world’s largest gatherings of rare disease patients, caregivers, advocates, healthcare professionals and researchers.

HOW IT WORKS
Mejo offers a new way for parents to organize and share a child’s most important medical and care information for all life’s situations. Specifically, medically complex children who require ongoing medical care.

The goal is to help simplify the complexities of the medical world for parents by giving them a product to print or save and take with them to appointments, share during an unexpected medical emergency or keep on hand for a babysitter.

Sheedy said that in his initial research, he did not find similar applications for what he envisioned.

“Nothing that went as high and wide and deep as what I wanted to build,” he said. “There are apps available to feed in the information, but there is no output. If I cannot share it, then it is only good for me.

“Not one caregiver has told us, ‘This [mejo] sounds like an app that I use.”

Sheedy said that keeping track of everything is complicated and time-consuming, regardless of a child’s age or medical situation. Mejo is a single tool that builds a medical journal customized to a child’s unique situation.

“Most information is scattered across multiple platforms that don’t speak to the caregiver in a way that makes sense to them,” Sheedy said. “We wanted to humanize the data in medical charts and make a child more than their diagnosis. Whether you have a medically complex child or not, mejo can help empower every parent to feel more organized and prepared.”

Mejo allows a parent to quickly create a medical journal explicitly tailored to their child through the web app. From medical conditions and allergies to fun facts that make their child unique — think “loves receiving high fives” or “has a fear of needles” — mejo pulls essential details about a child into one document that a parent can save and share quickly through a text or an email.

This past November, Bret Koncak, a former executive at electronic health record company Cerner, joined mejo as a co-founder. He met Sheedy through a mutual friend and brings more than 20 years of healthcare and IT experience to the endeavor.

“It is really important that we launch a product that simplified the situation for parents,” Koncak said. “Parents are already juggling a lot on a daily basis. Our goal is to provide them with a safe, secure solution that makes it easy to organize and share care information about their children.”

DEC. 8, 2017
Their professional careers brought Sheedy and Gibbs separately to Northwest Arkansas about a decade ago. They eventually met and recently celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary. She is originally from North Carolina, and he is from Pennsylvania.

Gibbs is vice president of marketing for Sam’s Club in Bentonville. Sheedy has been a stay-at-home dad for over four years.

“I always thought I wanted to be a CEO and run my own company; essentially, I am now — it’s called a house,” he joked. “We have three young sons and one with special needs.”

Sheedy and Gibbs became parents to twin boys on Dec. 8, 2017, one of whom was born with Costello syndrome, an extremely rare genetic condition with fewer than 1,000 cases worldwide.

According to the website kidshealth.org, Costello syndrome happens when there is a gene mutation in the HRAS gene. It occurs in a child’s DNA before birth. Costello syndrome causes problems that affect the heart, muscles, bones, skin, brain and spinal cord. There is no cure for the condition, but doctors can help kids manage most symptoms.

Sheedy said his son had undergone more surgeries than most families combined and spent more than 100 days in the NICU unit at Arkansas Children’s campuses in Springdale and Little Rock.

Sitting in the NICU a couple of years ago is where the mejo concept started. Sheedy said that by managing countless specialists, coordinating surgeries, administering hourly medications and looking for answers, the family has experienced most situations in the healthcare arena.

“Our goal is to empower caregivers and parents to deliver the best care possible,” he said. “Most don’t work in healthcare or speak ‘medical.’ We just need the summary. Personal medical records are missing the human element. Mejo is not just about medications, surgeries, height and weight. It also helps keep track of the things that make your little one unique.

“Knowing that a child loves dinosaurs, bright colors, the ‘Baby Shark’ song or that he only eats through a g-tube is just as important as his medications or blood type.”