The founders of healthtech startup Eternally launched the company early last year with the goal of easing some of life’s hardest moments.
Matti Perilstein, who spent about a decade as a consultant in the healthcare space, grew up watching her mom have many difficult conversations with family members during her time running a home health agency. It was specifically in the last days of life that a family member often had to make challenging decisions for a loved one, or were left to interpret legal documents about their end-of-life care.
“If there was ever a challenge, they called her,” Perilstein told Technical.ly. “And for a while, I’ve seen a huge opportunity to introduce some technology to help people through these challenging times.”
Perilstein met cofounder Patrick FitzGerald in early 2020 when he was an entrepreneur in residence at healthcare company Vynamic, and the pair decided in June to launch Eternally. The company works with medical care providers to reach patients and walk through the step-by-step process of setting up an advance directive, commonly known as a “living will.”
In that document, a patient details how they’d want end-of-life care to be handled, answering questions such as “What kind of life-sustaining treatment do you wish to receive?” or “Who is chosen as your power of attorney, a person you trust to make difficult medical decisions?”
Eternally offers virtual meetings with healthcare professionals who will give one-on-one consulting and help a patient understand the ins and outs of an advance directive. By allowing these conversations to happen outside of the doctor’s office and virtually, in the comfort of a patient’s home, patients can get a bit more comfortable asking questions or running through scenarios, Perilstein said.
Most adults are encouraged to have an active advance directive, but many don’t put thought into their end-of-life care until something close to them experiences a serious health event.
“We don’t expect 18-year-olds to be thinking about it, but you probably will if you’ve recently gone through a scare,” Perilstein said. “This conversation usually starts because there’s some sort of prompting.
And in the last year, the coronavirus pandemic has made clear how important these decisions are, she added.
Perilstein and FitzGerald work with a small tech and marketing team to build out the Eternally platform, which, like other healthtech companies, has to keep intense privacy and security demands in mind. The company has used DocuSign in order to remove some tech barriers like fax machines or printers, which not everyone has at home.
Patients will often be be linked with Eternally though their healthcare provider, but anyone can seek out an appointment through the company’s website. Services are reimbursable through Medicare or some insurance, or users can pay out of pocket.
The small team has raised some money from angel investors and plans to expand fundraising this year. They’re currently working with a large health system in Delaware, which they declined to name, and aim to partner with 10 new health systems by the end of the year.
“We believe we’re changing the way people can ask questions and change the conversation around this end-of-life care,” Perilstein said.
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