Daily

The Benecure platform uses gamification to encourage long-term health improvement

Chicago-based startup, Benecure, is looking to help make long-term behavior change for those with chronic conditions more feasible with a mobile platform that utilizes gamification, tracking and incentives. The company’s focus in its initial phase is managing hypertension. Many patients have trouble sticking to the behavior changes a physician recommends depending on their condition. The […]

Chicago-based startup, Benecure, is looking to help make long-term behavior change for those with chronic conditions more feasible with a mobile platform that utilizes gamification, tracking and incentives. The company’s focus in its initial phase is managing hypertension.

Many patients have trouble sticking to the behavior changes a physician recommends depending on their condition. The Benecure system is aimed at making that process not only easier but increase the likelihood of continued improvement even after a user stops using the system.

As co-founder Muhammed Fazeel explains, the focus for Benecure is “intrinsic motivation,” namely a way to change behavior long-term. As opposed to extrinsic motivation, like offering someone $5 each time they go to the gym, the gamification aspect of Benecure’s platform randomizes when rewards are given for certain behavior. Fazeel says this is proven to have longer-lasting results.

Data received from sensors keeps track of where a patient’s progress stands according to doctor recommendations, and the system then provides “nudges” to remind them when to make changes.

With the application, users have the option to set their own goals based on doctor recommendations, or, once data is in the system, back-end algorithms can interpret complex patterns and set realistic goals for a user.

What’s being monitored could be an activity, sleep, weight, blood pressure, calories and sodium intake. Specifically with lifestyle changes, goals start small in order to increase the likelihood of adherence.

A provisional patent has also been filed for an additional feature that will be added to the platform in the near future, which will identify how well you’re actually following the recommendations.

As Fazeel points out, for patients who see a physician semi-regularly to monitor a condition, they often have a tendency to lie at some point because they are embarrassed. When this happens, the platform can then readjust what the recommendations are in order to make them more realistic and doable for that patient. (Of course this is partially dependent on self-reporting from the user in the system.)

The specific randomized rewards users could get are yet to be determined, but Fazeel says free healthy food delivery from companies that will ship nationwide could be an option or gyms that would be willing to provide a free week of training. Once the company determines who exactly the end-user is after trial periods, the rewards will be easier to select. Also, a potential affiliation with a pharmacy chain could mean providing coupons for users.

Fazeel explained that consumers would not be paying for the service – it would either be paid for by pharmaceutical companies or providers and essentially prescribed to a user.

The company is currently pretty stable financially, Fazeel says, but a couple of angel investors have expressed interest and they could potentially fundraise as well – that will be determined by the end of June. Currently health systems in four states just completed a trial run with the Benecure sensors. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies have also expressed interest in creating a partnership, according to Fazeel.

Benecure is currently part of the MATTER healthcare incubator in Chicago.

Here’s Fazeel speaking at TEDxIIT about the personal experiences that motivated him to create Benecure and the process of simplifying the development of a startup.