The virtual personal health coach: Technology and data analytics join forces to disrupt preventive health

Published on Jun 1, 2017
· DOI :10.1109/IWASI.2017.7974258
Chris Van Hoof41
Estimated H-index: 41
(Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)
Imec has launched a virtual personal health coach research program which combines wearable technology and data sciences for providing new coaching methodologies towards managing an active lifestyle, managing stress, and smoking cessation, with the ambition to have a big impact on preventive health and reduce the future incidence of chronic disease. Chronic diseases currently account for 70 to 85% of all healthcare costs in US, EU and OECD countries. Nearly half of these chronic diseases are linked to lifestyle and behavior and are therefore in principle preventable. At the same time we are creating a next generation of chronic patients when looking at behavioral statistics of adolescents and adults. A third of all adolescents and half of all adults are not sufficiently active (in terms of aerobic exercise and physical activity). Nearly three quarters does not meet the recommended targets for muscle-strengthening physical activity. We consume too much sodium (which increases our risk of hypertension). Nearly 25% (40%) of adults said they ate vegetables (fruit) less than once a day. Approximately 19% of all adults still smokes cigarettes and e-cigarettes are on the rise. Half of all alcohol-related deaths are due to binge drinking. Unhealthy behavior leads to high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke. A major effort should therefore be devoted to preventive health and focus on maintaining or restoring a healthy lifestyle. Consumer wearables are already aiming to address our behavior, most notably fitness, and to some extent diet. However, since changing behavior is so difficult, generic smartphone apps providing averaged advice are not well accepted by users and have limited positive outcomes. If wearables were to learn our habits, and were able to capture triggers towards bad behavior, they could provide the right positive advice at the right time. Doing so, they could have the same impact and high-quality result as a personal coach who learns our behavior, what motivates us and gives tailored personalized advice.
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