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Touchkin: A Predictive Healthcare Platform For Managing Behavioural And Emotional Health

For the first time, we can actually provide help proactively to people when they need it, rather than wait for when they ask for it. This has multiple applications: proactive healthcare by hospitals and doctors, patient and treatment support enabled by pharma, employee wellness for employers or insurers, or student and citizen support facilities provided by the government.

Touchkin: A Predictive Healthcare Platform For Managing Behavioural And Emotional Health
Touchkin: A Predictive Healthcare Platform For Managing Behavioural And Emotional Health

BWDisrupt spoke to the core team of Touchkin and had interaction with Co-Founders Jo Aggarwal and Ramakant Vempati

Founded in 2015
Touchkin is a predictive care platform that helps deliver proactive support to someone in need of care, backed by cutting-edge AI (artificial intelligence), data analytics and machine learning.

The platform is a context sensitive way of answering the question “how are you?” and then helping get access to support. The first application of our predictive platform is with StayClose, an app that helps families know how their loved ones are, and take care of them while being remote. We are also applying our predictive analytics approach in a behavioural healthcare setting, by providing context-sensitive support to patients and other users in managing their behavior and develop healthy habits.

How was it started?
Prior to Touchkin, we were both working in the corporate world. In 2012, we moved back to India to take care of family. Living away from family, we realized that remote care giving is a huge global challenge, not just in India but abroad as well. We realized that there were millions of people who have family care responsibilities, but cannot move back home because of career and other reasons. We felt that big data and mobile technology could be harnessed to create a better way to care for parents and loved ones while being away. We wanted a world where you could google how your loved ones are, and be there for them virtually and practically.

Yet, there had been no way to combine mobile technology, advanced analytics and AI to help provide proactive care. We figured that as the big gap. That's when we decided to solve this problem. As we come from a tech background, we wanted to explore an opportunity in cutting edge technology, but very consumer oriented and that can potentially save lives. And that's how we came up with the idea of Touchkin.

Unique key features/ services
The main standout feature of the platform is that it doesn’t require active input from the user. If you look at all the other health or care apps out there, they are great for either finding providers or for people who are motivated enough to log their moods, sugar levels, food, activity etc. Or else they require wearables and devices, which need maintenance.

The Touchkin model doesn’t require any change in user behaviour. Once you have set up the system and answered a few questions, you use your phone as you normally do, our intelligent platform can figure out if you may be feeling low or not sleeping well, and connect to you help. Our core value is to 'trigger action' at the right time without being intrusive and having an emotive satisfaction of having cared for a loved one when they really needed it. It is an early warning system for healthcare.

Our USP is the quality of our technology execution, engaging user experience, and the strength of the predictive analytics platform. This delivers a highly engaging experience for the user so they keep coming back, and clinical as well as operational and clinical outcomes for our enterprise clients that are only possible by using a mobile-first solution.

How is it different from existing ones?
Most health & fitness apps ‘motivate the motivated’, as users need to provide input, or change their behavior by wearing a device or fitness band. Touchkin is different is several ways.

First, we are a predictive healthcare platform, not a fitness app: we don’t count steps, calories, or minutes of exercise. Our machine learning platform creates a context-sensitive picture about someone’s well-being, where it analyzes patterns of phone activity to see if there are unexpected changes that might indicate a potential issue. Second, we work on a ‘fill and forget’ principle. To make this work, users don’t have to buy any new devices or remember to keep them charged, or change their behavior in any way. You share your own context, of what is normal, using the one device that is always with you: your smartphone. And third, the app is able to do this in ways that minimize load on the phone’s battery and data: for example, in Android, our app doesn’t even register in the top 20 apps in terms of battery usage.

What is your current Funding Status?
We have raised $400K in our first round of angel funding from leading figures in the entrepreneurship and investor fraternity. We are looking at starting further investment discussions later this year, and are in early stage of discussion with some investors.

What is your existing Monetization model?
Apart from our first family care product, we are also creating more detailed health & wellness solutions for corporate clients using our platform, and public health solutions for healthcare systems in India and overseas. The core idea is that users will not have to pay to use these solutions – these will be enterprise solutions that are funded by entities who are interested in ensuring the health of a certain pool of people: either employers, insurance firms, pharma companies or governments.

Tell us about your Traction details in the past recent months?
The enterprise solution based on the Touchkin platform is currently undergoing trials at 5-10 large enterprise customers, which can help us reach hundreds of thousands of potential users in India. We are also in advanced discussions with clients overseas. The family care app is now being used by Touchkin was recently selected as one of six startups globally as part of the InsurTech accelerator set up by Zurich-headquartered Swiss Re, the world’s largest re-insurance company. We were also recognized as a ‘Shining Star’ for Product Innovation by the Ministry of MSMEs, Govt of India, WASME and SMEPost, and have been nominated for other prestigious awards for inclusive innovation.

What are your Future Plans for Touchkin?
Our core competence is in understanding the user’s context in a non-intrusive manner, and engaging them through a solution that can help them manage their behavioural and emotional health. This has huge implications for managing healthcare, since issues like anxiety, stress and depression affect physical health as well. We are currently about to launch a very exciting product that is receiving extremely strong user traction: watch this space!

Tell us more about your Marketing plans and how are they in line with your business vision?
We are already seeing adoption in India with enterprise customers, and interest amongst social investors to make this available broadly to a wider population. We are now collecting a large evidence base, and with this our solution will be ready to go global in the next year.

What kind of Challenges did you face in the beginning?
Running a startup is signing up to a series of challenges. More so since we are creating a new category altogether and are global first from that perspective. The key thing is to make people understand the concept and the technology, and all that we can now do with such a platform.

For the first time, we can actually provide help proactively to people when they need it, rather than wait for when they ask for it. This has multiple applications: proactive healthcare by hospitals and doctors, patient and treatment support enabled by pharma, employee wellness for employers or insurers, or student and citizen support facilities provided by the government.

Since we understand the context of how someone is just by using their phone usage patterns, a lot of this can happen in the background – the user does not have to do anything extra, input information, or buy any new devices. We have now overcome some major challenges in making this happen: getting this to work in rural areas, with all kinds of phones, and also different languages (some of these solutions are available to specialist healthcare partners).

Marrying advanced analytics and data science with consumer technology to create a user friendly solution is not easy, but we have managed to do so.
For example, we used the Touchkin analytics platform and ran a pliot project for stress management for people with diabetes in rural India. Many phones of the phones our users had were very basic, and they would keep their data off most of the day. So we reworked our solution till it worked with such users. Also since it was a new category, traditional online marketing didn’t work. We had to rely on word of mouth and referrals, which also became a blessing in disguise, because it focused our effort on delivering value to our users.

Touchkin is eyeing at what kind of market opportunities?
Behavioural health is a huge problem. Nearly one in four families globally will face emotional or mental distress at some point in their lives. In India, access to support for behavioural and emotional support is constrained by factors like lack of awareness (do I have a problem?), denial (I don’t want to face this), lack of access (whom do I speak to?) and stigma (what will people say?). There are only ~4000 pyschologists that serve a population of 1.2 billion. The World Bank and WEF estimates that mental health issues are expected to cost the Indian economy one trillion dollars over the next 8 years, 6 times the national expenditure on all healthcare for the last 19 years.

Further, behavioural health is intrinsically linked to physical health. Between 30-50% of people suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiac disease, hypertension, and cancer also have depression. Also, people who suffer from depression are 25% more likely to develop diabetes, and 40% more likely to have cardiac disease. Given the number of people with chronic diseases (100 million people with diabetes in India alone, spending $15-20Bn annually), we think behavioural health support especially linked to chronic disease is a multi-billion opportunity in India and of much bigger sizes overseas.

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