Editor’s note: Startup Spotlight is an exclusive feature from WRAL TechWire that brings attention to emerging entrepreneurial companies across the Triangle and North Carolina. These spotlight stories also are a regular part of our Startup Monday lineup.
RALEIGH – Influencers on TikTok and Instagram are quick to dish out advice on just about anything, including health and wellness.
But they aren’t always sharing accurate information, say experts. Opinions are often presented as facts, which is “potentially harmful.”
That’s where Social Cascade comes in. This Raleigh startup has developed a platform to combat misinformation by empowering health professionals on social media. Targeting pediatricians initially, its platform empowers doctors by using artificial intelligence (AI) to source and schedule reliable content where many of their patients are looking for answers.
“We currently rely on handouts and under-used patient portals,” Social Cascade’s co-founder Lucy Kosturko, PhD., told WRAL TechWire. “In short, we believe there is a better way to do patient education.”
The platform officially launched at the N.C. Pediatric Society Meeting in late August.
Kosturko: “This first-to-market resource allows providers to connect with all of their patients every day on the platforms they already use [with little to no effort].”
According to a recent Healthline report, a large swath of millennials (62%) and Generation Z (52%) go to the likes of influencers on Twitter, Facebook and other apps with medical concerns. It would indicate those age groups are at the mercy of social media sources’ “sometimes dubious accuracy,” Forbes reported.
Meanwhile, nearly 36% of adults in the U.S. have low health literacy, with disproportionate rates found among lower-income Americans eligible for Medicaid. Through all its impacts — medical errors, increased illness and disability, loss of wages, and compromised public health — low health literacy is estimated to cost the U.S. economy up to $236 billion every year.
Kosturko said she believes Social Cascade’s “local, culturally relevant content” will drive the needle of progress on building patient relationships and reducing health disparities.”
Kosturko, the startup’s chief product officer, and her co-founder, CEO Scott McQuiggan, PhD, met in grad school at NC State around 2010. Later, the pair worked as leading members of SAS’s philanthropic division building edtech for millions of students globally. There they also met Philippe Sabourin, co-founder and chief technology officer.
It was during this time that they started to think about ways to reach children earlier. Speaking to pediatricians, they narrowed their focus to social media and boosting communication between doctor and patient.
The platform collates content from providers like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and HealthyChildren.org. It then organizes, tags, and processes content into content streams. Pediatricians select preferred content providers, and the platform uses AI to schedule and deliver content on clinic channels. Parents and caregivers follow their pediatrician on social media. In turn, the platform analyzes impact and delivers results to doctors.
To date, Social Cascade has secured a $75,000 community grant to sponsor subscription fees for select pediatric primary care clinics in Durham. It’s also participating CED’s GRO program and have “several other pending grant awards.”
Meanwhile, it’s working with our partner organization, Reach Out and Read, to identify clinics in their network to which we will award subscriptions.
It’s also hiring a community manager to recruit and onboard advocacy organizations producing health-related content.
This month, it plans to onboard the platform at 30 sites across North Carolina “with 35 additional clinics on our waiting list” for October.
“Social Cascade promises to scale the equitable dissemination of reliable, impactful information to promote positive early relational health for all children,” Kosturko said.