David F. Gustafson
The CHESS Health story begins with the pioneering work of Dave Gustafson, PhD, the founder and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies, a co-founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
For Dr. Gustafson, improving the healthcare patient experience has been a life-long focus: “People suffer from injury and disease. They also suffer from poorly-designed health care systems. We want to eliminate that second type of suffering. No one should have to suffer twice.”
In the field of addiction treatment, for which he would become nationally-recognized, Dr. Gustafson envisioned a smartphone app could support an individual during and after treatment and reduce the incidence and severity of relapse. With a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Dr. Gustafson developed the original A-CHESS app in 2011 and conducted a three-year randomized clinical study with treatment centers in Illinois and Massachusetts.
The study results, demonstrating the effectiveness of the A-CHESS app, were published in 2014 in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry and led to an interest in more studies and implementations, one of which was a project with veterans in Western New York. This study connected Dr. Gustafson with Christopher Wilkins, who realized the potential for A-CHESS to improve recovery outcomes for everyone and made it his mission to place the technology into the hands of every patient in addiction treatment. Chris Wilkins launched CHESS Health to bring A-CHESS to market.
In 2016, Dr. Gustafson recruited John Holton, the founder of three successful healthcare technology companies, to become Chairman and lead CHESS Health’s first major investment round. Late in 2017, following a year of rapid customer expansion, including the addition of key provider and health plan customers and international deployments, Hans Morefield took the reins as CEO to bring operational leadership, expand the A-CHESS platform, and continue the mission of delivering lasting recovery for all.