Student Profiles

Startup Profile: Mercury Health

Meet the Blackstone LaunchPad Fellows Shaping the Future of Home Medical Devices, Part 1

With COVID-19 pandemic changing the way the world operates, it’s no surprise that healthcare was the most common industry within this spring’s cohort of the Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship.

Innovation within the healthcare industry is moving at an incredible pace. Many young entrepreneurs have either pivoted their business or identified problems as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically in the home, new medical devices are being created to ensure safe, remote monitoring.

Ji Lee, UC San Diego student and founder of Mercury Health, is one of three LaunchPad Fellows innovating in this space.

Mercury Health

Mercury Health is a personal emergency response system for the elderly.

“The biggest problems we found was that with wearable devices like Life Alert, people still wouldn’t use them or interact with them,” said Ji. “And on top of that there isn’t a lot of care for caregivers or tools for them to use.”

The company uses is AI technology and wall-mounted sensors that detect movement like getting out of bed, using the bathroom, falling, wandering, laying down, and sleeping, with an alert system to notify caregivers of any changes.

“Informal caregivers – people who didn’t expect or intend to be caregivers – are often afraid to even go to the store for a couple of hours because something might happen. Our product alleviates all those problems.”

Early Inspiration

“When I was young my grandmother suffered from dementia pretty severely and passed away,” Ji explains. 

His mother took care of her while also working a full time job, and Ji remembers his mother regretting not being able to do more.

“Even though there was nothing more she could have done, regret can be a powerful thing. Ever since then that’s stuck with me.”

In high school, Ji spoke to his neighbor, a mentor and friend with a history of health issues who said that wearable devices felt like a leash. Ji was inspired to partner with Brandon, his co-founder, and prototype a fall detection system that sent text alerts.

After entering the idea into the Microsoft Imagine Cup and winning the national title, Ji and Brandon left for college in 2017 where they worked on building the technology until they were ready to launch in 2019.

Target customers

“We want to target low-income informal family caregivers. These are the people that are thrusted into this position and they need a way to get back to the normal state of their lives and still keep track of their loved ones,” says Ji.

This is especially true of people around his age, who immediately turn to technology solutions when they have to take care of their parents. Mercury Health is also working specifically with informal caregivers, including in-home care services and memory care facilities, private homes that requires more consistent alerts like if the person is getting out of bed or moving around a lot.

“They need daily updates with statistics showing how many times someone went to the bathroom to learn more about their patient’s status and condition. At the same time, we are replacing a bunch of old technology such as outdated bed sensors that result in a lot of false positives. A way to reduce the cost of nighttime caregiving is to reduce the amount of caregivers per person with our technology.”

Ji and his team are working with UCSD researchers to determine how much stress their device can relieve for caregivers. “There’s a lot of research coming out that shows the health concerns tied to the difficulty of caregiving. Everyone will be a caregiver or need a caregiver at some point in their life. It’s about not just giving people peace of mind, but that they also feel connected.”

Fellowship and next steps

“Creating a startup at our age, we really have no idea what we’re doing,” Ji says. “[The LaunchPad Fellowship helped] reassure us that what we’re doing is right and will keep us on path, especially with our marketing.”

Still in early stages, Ji and his team hope that the Fellowship will help them build connections, with both customers and potential partners a like. “We’re at a stage where we are seeking funding after bootstrapping everything, but as we scale, we mostly want to find people deep into the industry to connect and work with.”

Read more about the 50 Blackstone LaunchPad Fellows participating in this year’s cohort.