Hillel's Tech Corner: Getting healthy with tech

June 20, 2019 22:47
4 minute read.
Sweetch Health

Sweetch Health. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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One of the many buzz phrases you might have heard over the past several years is “contextual computing.” While technology is advancing at the speed of light thanks to the mobile phone and other devices, the Holy Grail is personalized and contextual information served to you at the right time in the right place.

After all, your mobile phone, which is in your pocket almost constantly, knows more about you, your location, your behavior, and your preferences than any device in the past. So instead of using that information to serve ads to me, why not use it to make me healthier?

That is the vision behind Sweetch Health, an Israel-based company founded in March 2014 by Dana Chanan, Dan Lichtenfeld and Dr. Yossi Bahagon.

Sweetch currently has 18 employees and has raised $7.3 million in venture funding.

So what market is Sweetch addressing? Here are some numbers.

Almost 50% of adults have at least one chronic disease. The World Health Organization indicates that only about 50% of patients with chronic diseases follow treatment recommendations. Chronic diseases account for 86% of all healthcare spending.

People are getting sick. The treatment is obvious and available to all, and yet nothing is changing. This company aims to leverage the mobile device including everything it knows about you, to offer you a personalized digital coach that’ll guide and incentivize you to get healthy.

I think everyone is well aware of the phenomenon of making promises to yourself about getting into shape and changes your habits. We are also all aware how many times we actually follow through on those promises.

Changing your behavior, and especially adopting healthier habits, is hard. It requires awareness, motivation, persistence and discipline. For those who suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, changing health habits is a life-saving struggle.

Dr. Bahagon, a family physician and a serial entrepreneur who founded one of the largest digital health divisions in the world at Clalit Health Services, faced this reality with his pre-diabetic patients time and again.

While Sweetch operates in a variety of health conditions and diseases (diabetes, hypertension, obesity, arthritis and even cancer), pre-diabetes is a wake-up call that you’re on the path to diabetes but it’s not too late to turn things around. If you have pre-diabetes (like 86 million other Americans, 63 million Europeans, and 493 million Chinese), your blood sugar (glucose) level is higher than it should be, but not yet in the diabetes range.

RESEARCH SHOWS that walking for 150 minutes a week and losing 5%-7% of your weight can prevent 58% of diabetes cases. As simple as it may sound, 80% of people fail to follow these guidelines.

So Bahagon joined forces with Dana Chanan, a behavioral change expert who spent many years as a top executive in leading global mobile gaming companies, including 888, Playtech, and Snaptu (acquired by Facebook). Chanan decided to take her valuable insights and experience to transform people’s health behavior.

The team completed itself with Dan Lichtenfeld, a seasoned technology entrepreneur with extensive experience in developing digital engagement channels. Together with a dedicated team of data scientists, user-experience experts, and developers, they have developed a hyper-personalized platform for disease prevention and management.

Designed to work in real life, Sweetch’s artificial intelligence-powered behavioral intelligence engine converts millions of data points originating from the user’s smartphone and other connected devices into contextual, highly personalized, just-in-time, just-in-place recommendations.

Through analyzing your current context, past behaviors and real-world capabilities, Sweetch’s proprietary algorithms identify the individual’s compliance patterns and continuously optimize the recommendations that each user receives in a way that increases the likelihood of action.

The company offers a free mobile app for consumers named get.up, a full version, white-labeled solution for pharma companies, payers, insurers and self-insured companies, and a software development kit for other app developers to use Sweetch’s data and technology to help their users.

In a clinical trial conducted by Johns Hopkins, one of the world’s most prestigious health and research organizations, Sweetch’s Just-in-Time Adaptive Intervention approach (JITAI) presented 86% user retention and clinically significant improved health outcomes.

So much has been said about the damage that technology causes to our brains via screen addiction or alleged radiation. Not much has been said about how technology, and specifically the mobile phone, can not only enhance our life, but even save it.

Sweetch works on a very basic straightforward premise. Most people want to lead healthy lifestyles. Most people want to live long lives. Most people are also lazy and like pizza (or so I’m told). If only there was a way to motivate people to choose health over chocolate cake, millions of lives can be saved.

Building partnerships with leading global pharma companies, insurers, healthcare providers and employers around the globe, Sweetch has the potential to fight some of the biggest epidemics of our era.

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