Forta Secures $55M Investment to Promote Autism Care for Parents

In a world where healthcare access is disproportionately skewed by geography and income, Forta Health raised a substantial round of funding to level the playing field a bit. Forta defends its approach, saying it differs in some substantial ways from the ABA approaches from the bad old days. Those are now very passé,” explains Christian Smith, co-founder and CMO at Forta Health, in an interview with TechCrunch. Forta Health wants to ensure that those parents have professional support and training to be able to give higher-quality care. Forta Health is exploring how to enhance family caregiving with technology, especially for chronic conditions and areas where the health system falls short.

Innovative Healthcare Company, Forta Health, Strives to Bridge the Gap in Access

In a world where healthcare access is disproportionately skewed by geography and income, Forta Health has recently raised a substantial round of funding in hopes to level the playing field. The company’s mission is to democratize access to healthcare by implementing artificial intelligence tools, specifically large language models, in order to empower caregivers and enhance clinical treatments. By doing so, Forta is not only making strides in healthcare provision, but also narrowing the accessibility gap in regions where physician outreach is lacking.

The company’s primary concern revolves around managing the increasing number of diagnoses for conditions like autism, Alzheimer’s, and chronic diseases. With a desperate shortage of professionals available to provide support, Forta Health is determined to make a difference.

Forta Health’s initial focus is on autism treatment. The company is leaning into applied behavior analysis (ABA), a method that has received criticism from the autistic community. The main concern is that ABA can often be overly controlling, placing a strong emphasis on changing behaviors to conform to societal norms rather than understanding the underlying needs or perspectives of the individual. This approach primarily focuses on modifying observable behaviors, leading critics to argue that it neglects the individual’s cognitive and emotional processes.

Despite the criticism, Forta Health defends its approach and explains that it differs from ABA in significant ways from the “bad old days.” In an interview with TechCrunch, Christian Smith, co-founder and CMO of Forta Health, states, “We’re thinking about the application of Applied Behavioral Analysis as a method for analyzing behavior, and then providing reinforcements that either promote a positive behavior or extinguish a negative, maladaptive behavior. Some of the reinforcements and rewards of the very early applications of ABA were Machiavellian, such as restraints, electro-shocks, and so on. Those are now very passé. The way we think about this is with a trauma-informed and least-restraint approach.”

Co-founder and CEO of Forta, Ritankar Das, emphasizes the challenge of ensuring consistent, quality care under the current healthcare arrangement. He explains, “Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, we take a personalized approach. We do that by using an AI model that customizes the treatment plan. That’s a really important piece because we are still learning a lot about this, and as a species, understanding of biology is still quite crude in some areas.”

The core issue that Forta Health is tackling is the fact that, with children who have autism, a lot of the support is already given by the family. Forta Health wants to ensure that those parents have professional support and training to provide high-quality care. Das reveals the historical background of caregiving, explaining how it used to begin within the family unit, stemming from small tribes in our early days as a species. Despite significant technological advancements, healthcare systems still face challenges in adequately addressing chronic care and mental health issues. While we have made strides in treating acute conditions, such as infectious diseases like COVID-19, we struggle with chronic illnesses and often rely on reactive “sick care” instead of preventative measures. Das expands on the idea that technology has extended life spans and improved certain health aspects, but as an institution, healthcare hasn’t adequately addressed the rise in chronic conditions. This means that a lot of care continues to fall on families, making family-driven care remain crucial. Forta Health aims to enhance family caregiving with technology, especially in areas where the health system falls short.

Focusing on their current product offering, Das explains how ABA’s origins lie in family-led studies that demonstrated its effectiveness and positive outcomes. Over time, this approach has shifted, but Forta Health is dedicated to returning to the original approach of ABA. They believe this empowers families by providing lifelong skills to manage a condition that affects individuals beyond childhood.

The company proudly states that it has partnered with seven of the top 10 largest U.S. health insurance providers and over two dozen state government schemes. With a $55 million war chest, Forta Health has their sights set on more than just autism, claiming that family-based care presents a much broader opportunity.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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