Madrona entrepreneur Megan Haas's idea for a holistic healthcare platform that allows people to manage their health while connecting with other people and practitioners began percolating 15 years ago.
The need for that platform became even more of a priority when her daughter started experiencing food texture aversions that became debilitating. Haas said wished she had a space where she could share her burdens with others facing similar situations because she felt alone, with no one to talk to. When she joined Twitter, she saw many people felt the same way as she did.
“We want to connect, but there are so few authentic places for us to do that,” Haas said.
So, Haas did what she has years of experience doing: taking an idea, making connections with the right people, collaborating and transforming those ideas into a reality. Haas, who co-developed the company Utilikilts, which specializes in making kilts, in 2000, is now focused on something even bigger: untangling the intimidating web of the healthcare system. With a skilled team of web designers behind her, Haas's vision includes answering the questions of how do people build self knowledge around health, and how do they collaborate with others in the process?
For Haas, the answer to those questions is her online health platform Kinnected.
In an email, Haas said, with Kinnected, she is creating “a culture and a community-based, free, global public health system that does everything that the current ones don’t,” for example, by “developing the action steps toward helping people feel seen, hear, inspired, acknowledged and celebrated for their health journeys.”
Haas also took some inspiration from two unlikely allies: Mr. Rogers and Wonder Woman.
“Because I really feel you need a helper and a fighter at the same time,” she said.
With Kinnected, Haas hopes to make healthcare more accessible and manageable for people by helping them take control of their own journey.
Through the different elements of her website, Haas said, people can engage in their health in “a kind and supportive way.” The name Kinnected combines all the elements Haas wants the platform to stand for: kin, kinship and kinetic.
“We don't have anything that creates a sense of worldwide kinship,” Haas said.
By using Kinnected, Haas wants people to understand and manage their health in a non-threatening way — by speaking with others and sharing their worries, experiences and successes, as well as keeping track of their own health history. In turn, people can go to practitioners informed and with better understanding of their healthcare options, thus reducing the guess work and burden placed on practitioners.
“It's a gentle, non-threatening, non-clinical way at looking at healthcare,” Haas said.
Haas said all the tools on her site, current and coming, are meant to help people support themselves holistically. An important element to that is communication, and in the next month, Haas said members will be able to reach out to other people they believe might offer them valuable insight or help based on profile information people want to share.
“You don’t have to be helpless. You can walk someone through, or you can ask to be walked through,” Haas said.
Another tool lets people search for all types of health practitioners, who register sign up for the platform using a different, professional path. Only practitioners pay for their membership, but it's on a sliding scale, Haas said. People can search for practitioners using Kinnected, although they do not give advice. And, by signing up for Kinnected, practitioners can network with other professionals who specialize in their field or share similar interests, philosophies or practices.
While not all the elements on her website are live, Haas said she hopes people will be able to communicate with each other sometime in November, and the care profile and timeline will be ready by spring.
Haas said everything about Kinnected is aimed at making people feel safe and welcome. Members can share as much or as little of themselves as they wish, and everything is anonymous. No one is ever solicited, and within 24 hours, a person's information is flushed out.
While Haas said everything she has done professionally has led her to this point, she is not rushing Kinnected. First, she does not have the funding to do so, she said.
“Another reason why it has taken so long is I have tried to put what is inside of me onto there,” Haas said.
She does, however, feel a sense of urgency as more COVID-19 cases sweep across the nation.
“I am truly hoping to make a difference as we go into this next surge by offering a solution to this lethal combination of depression, anxiety and loneliness,” Haas said in an email, adding that so many now are suffering from long-haul COVID symptoms. “Our grief has been magnified and marginalized — so much death, but without a common cultural infrastructure around these aspects of life, we cannot move through death and grief properly.”
While she has immediate goals for Kinnected, Haas said she would also like to expand her vision even further if the site begins to make money: by setting up free wellness center and by giving back to other women who want to advance themselves or their careers but don't have the means to do so.
“So I want to be able to encourage. I want to be able to fund other women who have such incredibly narrow pathways to funding,” Haas said.
To learn more about Kinnected or to sign up, visit https://kinnected.org, or follow Kinnected on Twitter at https://twitter.com/KinnectedO. To make a donation, go to https://kinnected.org/donate.
To hear a speech Haas gave at a summit in Amsterdam about her vision, go to https://vimeo.com/375023105.