Jerry The Bear Tackles Pediatric Patient Education


Providence, RI-based digital health startup Sproutel, which dubs itself  a Disney World for healthcare, will be bringing a new patient education tool to market next month, a teddy bear named Jerry. The bear is far more than a traditional teddy bear. This bear has diabetes and requires care that includes insulin and a proper nutritional diet. The bear is being marketed to pediatric endocrinologists as an innovative form of patient education designed to teach newly diagnosed diabetic children about their condition and how to properly manage it.

Launched in 2012, Sproutel has moved its company from concept to launch on less than $1 million in VC funding. The team of four graduated from BetaSpring’s accelerator program, and has since raised two angel rounds – one in 2012 and the other in 2013, both backed primarily by Jumpstart Ventures. In June 2015, the team won a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Small Business Administration to further develop Jerry the Bear’s curriculum.

Sproutel was launched by Aaron Horowitz and Hannah Chung, two Northwestern engineer’s and Design for America fellows. In a 2012 World at Work interview with GE, Horowitz explained that the inspiration for Jerry the Bear comes from the idea that children often get teddy bears from parents or loved ones when they are diagnosed with diseases. "They respond really well to these inanimate objects that they ascribe all sort of feelings to,” he said. “We just saw there was a great potential to use this thing they’re so attached to and try to make it convey information that could actually help them learn."

The now market-ready Jerry the Bear targets children aged three to seven. The bear comes with 21 interactive story books that require children to pick appropriate foods for Jerry, check his blood sugar levels, and balance his insulin. The bear has six injection sites, comes with a mock insulin pen, and has 10 food cards that will help them learn the dietary requirements of diabetes and properly monitor and dose insulin. The team claims that even six months after buying the bear, children continue to engage with it for more than one hour per week.

Sproutel spent 2014 soft launching its Jerry the Bear platform through a strategic partnership with Context Media. Through that partnership, Sproutel was able to reach 25 percent of pediatric endocrinology offices and four percent of newly diagnosed pediatric diabetes patients during 2014. Now, the team plans to take their bear directly to consumers. 

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