War on Diabetes Hackathon 2017

This week has been exceptionally good! It’s been just 5 days since I wrote about the 1st runner up position at the NUS-MIT Datathon and I am back with another hackathon!

My team clinched the first prize in the recent War on Diabetes Designathon. The designathon was organised by the Ministry of Health, Singapore and Health Promotion Board, with SingHealth and Sport Singapore as the supporting partners.

It was a total coincidence joining the designathon. My friend, Vinod, called me out of the blue on an evening asking if I am interested. I said “Why not?”, and decided to join them. I suppose it was a good decision!

In contrast to a hackathon, which lasts a continuous 24 hours typically over a weekend, this designathon allowed teams to work on preset challenge statements for an entire week and then finally come together to pitch the ideas to the judges. In retrospect, I realise how effective this is. Instead of scrambling to create hard-coded applications or barely working prototypes, the week long duration gave my team the clarity and freedom to sit together and brainstorm on the problem.

Often at 24-hour hackathons, due to the lack of time, I had found myself rushing onto an idea prematurely. In contrast, the initial freedom at the designathon allowed us to form some great ideas and then iterate upon them to come up with a final solution. The extra time also allowed us to perform some crucial validation on our idea.

The Problem

There were two problem statements given at the challenge:

  1. Interventions for persons at high risks of developing Type 2 Diabetes
  2. Increasing physical activity level among working adults

Both problems are indeed pertinent in Singapore and require some immediate resolutions.

We followed the design thinking methodology and came up with a solution.

A Short Detour - Design Thinking Methodology

The design methodology consists of a sequence of steps as shown below:

Design Thinking Methodology

The methodolgy proved to be extremely useful and I definitely recommend using this strategy, especially in the contexts of hackathons. Agrim Singh, a serial hackathon winner, details this methodology in his Medium article.

After going through this methodology, we finally came up with an app which we believed will help solve the root causes of the problems identified.

Back En Route

HEALTHX was the name we gave our app (and to our team). In a short few lines, HEALTHX is a crowdsourced fitness app that aims to bring the fitness to you.

Let’s take an example. Putting ourselves into the shoes of a working adult, it would probably be 7.30 - 8.30pm by the time we reach home after a long day’s work. From then, going to the gym would take around 30 - 60 minutes on average. This would defintely come across as a huge barrier. Most people would rather sit and relax by watching Netflix / TV programmes etc. That’s just one daily life example of a typical working adult but that itself is a huge problem.

In fact, it is in this age group that people need to be most active so as to prevent the onset of diseases such as diabetes, i.e. Prevention is better than Cure. Further analysing this, we can point out 3 underlying reasons for this:

  • Inconvenient location, time, cost

    People find the locations of gyms to be inconvenient as they may be far away from their homes. This brings an additional overhead of the time required to travel to and fro the gym or fitness studio.

    Another contributing factor is the cost. Personal trainers or fitness classes can be expensive. Even the programmes at community sport complexes would roughly cost over $60.

  • Lack of variety

    They might find the usual variety of activities available to them lacking in variety. Gym is a great place, but not everyone likes strength training. Zumba may be good and be can be an attractive option to the ladies. Despite that, how about those who don’t really like to dance?

    There needs to be a good amount of variety which can align with people’s interests and of course, also satisfy the previous mentioned points of convenient location, time and cost.

  • Loss of motivation

    The problem with fitness is that it is a long term goal. A pre-diabetic patient may decide to embark on a strict fitness regime. However, he may or may not see results soon. Typically, depending on the type of activity, it can take anywhere between 2-6 months or even a longer duration to see any tangible effects on themselves.

    The desire and motivation to keep going during the time period may wane off due to the lack of (immediate) results they see.

The Solution

What if we can motivate them by bringing the fitness to them? That was the starting point for the app. We decided to bring together the pool of fitness coaches, PE teachers, Army fitness instructors etc. together and offer their services to anyone on-demand. This would mean that for example, a housewife who needs to exercise, can simply join a personal fitness instructor at the fitness corner below the block. An elderly grandpa can now join his favourite Tai Chi group at the park near his house conducted by a certified instructor.

The goals of the application can be summarised with these 3 points:

  • Network of Instructors

    The app will bring a pool of all the fitness instructors together. Have a large pool means more variety and options for all to choose.

  • Programme Variety

    With different instructors for different activities, we can feature a larger variety of programmes catering to different age groups and interests.

  • Convenient Locations & Times

    By bringing fitness closer to everyone, they are able to save on time. Travelling is essentially eliminated as people can exercise right at their fitness corners with instructors. As compared to travelling to a specific location to exercise, exercising at locations convenient to them will save considerable amount of time. That’s what we mean by bringing the fitness to you.

There are certainly incentives for both parties here: trainers and users. Trainers can now offer their free time towards conducting such classes and activities to our community at public places instead of restricting themselves to gyms or fitness studios. They will be able to earn additional income from the app as well.

From a user point-of-view, HEALTHX would address all the factors listed in “The Problem” section. Another motivating factor is this: Instead of having a fixed fee for each participant in a group activity course, we can now allow the fee paid by each person to be dependent on the total number of participants. Frankly, cost from additional participants to the instructor would be minimal. Hence, as more people join a programme, the cost per participant can be lowered. Of course, the number of participants will still be capped by the capacity of venue and such factors.

Our Product

The following app demo shows the key features of the app.

This is an interactive prototype, feel free to tap or click and see what happens!

The UI has been designed with attention to be both appealing to our target audience and to provide a great user experience. The categories of activities cover a wide range from HIIT to weights to Zumba and even Yoga.

An activity feed of the chosen categories display the key information as a summary, along with the price. Payment options are flexible and are integrated with existing apps like ActiveSG, thereby allowing the public to utilise their free ActiveSG credits fully.

An in-app chat feature with the fitness trainer means both parties can communicate effectively without any exchange of phone numbers.

One of the coolest features is the progress tracker. The progress report sports a sleek UI and shows the user the summary of his/her fitness achievements. As a fun feature, the calories they have burnt are also shown in a quantifiable way such as “1 McSpicy” or “1 Roti Prata” etc. This allows the user to appreciate his/her effort for the week and perhaps, would prompt them to think twice before they eat such calorie-high food in the future. We felt this feature would also appeal to the younger generation.

The in-app social feed allows users to see what activities their friends and people around them are being involved in. This can help expose the users to more activities. For example, a user who sees that his friend is taking part in HIIT training may be further motivated to do it together with him. At the same time, the social feed also allows others to see how much calories has been burned in the form of food such as burgers / waffles.

Our Value Proposition

Our Value Proposition is as follows:

  • Integrate with Pre-DICTed Programme

    The Pre-DICTed programme stands for Pre-Diabetes Interventions and Continued Tracking to Ease-out Diabetes. This is a 5-year community-based intervention programme to reduce the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes. Pre-diabetics can easily utilise HEALTHX as they try to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

    A great point our team wanted to make here is that we do not want to stigmatise the pre-diabetics with a separate app / category catering to them. Instead, we want them to feel open to join the existing programmes which are for the general public.

  • Upscale HPB’s efforts

    HEALTHX will certainly be complementary to existing efforts from HPB to promote an active lifestyle, especially among working adults.

  • Data Analytics

    As more people begin to use HEALTHX, the data collected from the user activities and their category interests can be analysed to give them even more customised suggestions. Incorporating machine learning and data analytics would expose a whole wide range of personalised options for each user over time.

  • Financially Sustainable

    Initially, people can enjoy the app with their free ActiveSG credits of $100. For pre-diabetics and diabetics, exclusive promo code options can be provided to make their participation extremely affordable. As momentum picks up, funding can be eased out as the app will become financially self-sustainable.

Some Closing Thoughts

I believe that this app can defintiely aid in encouraging more people to join in their favourite activities. Most of the time, all we need is that energy to overcome the initial barrier to exercising or keeping fit. In a way, this app tries to eliminate that initial barrier by providing everyone an easier option, one that does not take too much time nor effort.

I am really overjoyed that my team won the first prize in this designathon. It’s my 2nd healthcare hackathon in the same week and I have learnt loads during this period. I also got to work with an amazing team which made all these possible. The level of enthusiasm and team synergy was indeed unbelievable. Often, a great idea needs a great team to succeed. That combination was evidently present here.

Looking forward to extending this app and implementing it one day!

HEALTHX | Active. Anytime. Anywhere.


P.S. I have talked a lot about the team. So here we are: