Litesprite: Improving Mental Health Outcomes through Video Games

By Mark Ogilbee posted 12-08-2022 05:49 PM

Swatee Surve of Litesprite

Award-winning digital health entertainment firm Litesprite has built a therapeutic gaming platform that delivers data insights and improves clinical outcomes. An AgeTech Collaborative™ startup participant, Litesprite built the first clinically validated, family-friendly mental health video game, complete with several validated reimbursement pathways.

To learn more about the company’s mission and offerings, we spoke with Litesprite’s founder and CEO, Swatee Surve. 


This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 


What is Litesprite all about? 

Litesprite is a therapeutic gaming platform. We build clinically validated, inclusive games, whose data improves outcomes, and the games themselves empower people to manage chronic health conditions.  


Can you tell us more about one of your games? 

We have a clinically validated game called Sinasprite that brings joy and helps people improve their mental health. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure game. The protagonist is a fox called Socks, who wants to become a Zen master. You help Socks become a Zen master by playing a series of mini-games; they're these little experiences that teach you coping skills such as meditating, journaling, and diaphragmatic breathing. There are also mindfulness strategies to help you build self-awareness of your emotions. 


What was your journey to founding the company? 

I’ve always been interested in the intersection of health and technology; I’ve been building these solutions since the mid-1990s. Back when I started looking into this space, the technology was geared toward the enterprise side — hospitals and insurance companies. The technology was expensive and not very accessible, so there wasn’t a lot of personal tech that individual people could use. But as mobile and other technologies developed, it became much easier to build and deploy personal tech and to get people to use it at scale. 


You mentioned that your games are inclusive. What do you mean by that? 

One thing we ask ourselves is, “What’s the experience of the patient?” In other words, what’s the emotional impact of the experience? Is it inclusive, or does it feel off-putting? Is it culturally sensitive, age-sensitive, gender-sensitive? 

On another level: Until very recently, when people talked about digital health solutions, they generally were talking about the “worried well” — people in a higher socioeconomic status who have disposable income and enough control over their schedule to focus on their health care. When it comes to preventative care, the fewer financial resources you have, the less access to technology you have, and the less preventative care you can do — so you’re always in a catch-up kind of situation. It’s only recently that people have begun to realize the social determinants that impact access to health care. 


What are some of the unexpected obstacles you’ve encountered in building Litesprite, and how have you navigated those? 

One has been the amount of misinformation around evidence. Decision-makers often don’t have the opportunity to stay current on the levels of evidence or clinically relevant metrics that are appropriate for a digital health intervention. So there has been a lot of education in the market that we've had to do. 

Also, healthcare is a very relationship-driven business, and it’s very risk-averse, despite public statements that they want to work with a startup. It’s an oxymoron: They’ll work with a startup, but only a startup that’s been proven. So if you’re an unknown entity and you don’t have those relationships, it’s very difficult. And if you’re a woman of color, it’s going to be especially tough to make headway. 

Another unexpected challenge was I didn’t know how difficult it would be to raise capital without a network of high-net-worth individuals who knew and trusted me enough to give me the early-stage capital. Fundraising is always difficult, but it’s even more so as a woman of color. Subsequently, data bore out my lived experience, and this is an ongoing issue. 


What’s next for Litesprite? 

We're really focused on commercializing and getting this out, to help more people. We're looking to sell to employers — to support any employer group that is looking to improve the mental health of their employees as well as their employees’ families. And we’re always looking for research partners to build on our evidence base.  

We’re also working with payers and providers, so we’d love to have introductions to payers or providers who are looking for effective self-help tools to augment their current behavioral health stack. 

And — we’re hiring! We’re looking for a chief clinical officer as well as a chief revenue officer. 

You can learn more about Litesprite at their website.