In 2015, Dr. Suzanne Mitchell received a $3.5M research grant to test the efficacy of virtual reality in helping patients manage their diabetes. This was the genesis of See Yourself Health, a startup utilizing online social gaming to help patients live healthier lives with type 2 diabetes.
See Yourself Health is an explorable 3D environment where participants create a customized playable character (avatar) and practice group physical activities like dancing, swimming, and yoga while attending discussion groups and curriculum presentations. “People need the support of a community to necessitate a behavior change,” says Dr. Mitchell. “One way of managing diabetes is weight loss, which requires diet and exercise. That’s really hard for most people, and failure with lifestyle changes makes it harder and harder. We’re using gamification to solve that.” To participate, patients register through the See Yourself Health website, design an avatar according to their preferences, and enroll in an 8-week facilitated group education program with unlimited access to the virtual environment.
Integrated into the See Yourself Health user experience is HopeApp, a mobile app designed to help users self-monitor their blood glucose, diet patterns, mood and physical activity levels. Hope is an empathetic animated health assistant who asks the user simple questions about lifestyle patterns to allow patients to track their progress in real time. Together, the See Yourself Health virtual world and the HopeApp encourage patients to take little steps towards big change.
See Yourself Health earned their first major contract in Pennsylvania in October 2018 with Geisinger Health System. “We’re scientifically rooted,” Mitchell says. “We have research, we’re funded by NIH grants, and we are translating this into a commercial entity to test the scalability of what we’ve created.” Mitchell is the principal investigator of Women in Control, the randomized clinical trial from which See Yourself Health evolved. See Yourself Health is conducting market research and scalability testing in Pennsylvania to best understand the unique needs of its end users.
See Yourself Health brings the power of community to the fight against diabetes. Through virtual reality and cloud technology, they are committed to leveraging modern solutions to create more effective, more accessible, and more powerful chronic disease education for millions of Americans.