The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Melanie Hetzer, head of marketing and co-founder of Cora Health, an eHealth platform aiming to improve the heart health of blood pressure patients, based in Tallinn, Estonia. Hetzer discussed the benefits of providing users with personalized treatment plans with an AI-based algorithm, and the role of AI in healthcare.
Eline Chivot: What are the experiences and trends that have led you to create Cora Health?
Melanie Hetzer: In Europe, every fourth adult has high blood pressure. What’s even worse is that every eighth person dies from one of the numerous secondary diseases, such as heart attacks or strokes.
As members of our families were diagnosed with hypertension, my co-founder and I were startled by how little attention and care patients received to treat their condition. We felt that we had to do something about this situation and this is why we founded Cora Health. We aim to improve the heart health of millions of blood pressure patients.
Chivot: Can you explain how your application works and how a patient would use it?
Hetzer: Cora Health helps users to track their blood pressure and to improve their condition by effective lifestyle interventions. Firstly, users record their blood pressure readings in the Cora Health app. The app explains to them the stage of their condition and shows them the long-term development of their blood pressure levels. Secondly, Cora Health supports the formation of heart-healthy habits. Based on the patient’s blood pressure, the app suggests suitable exercises, like cycling or swimming. By performing weekly tasks—we call them challenges—the patient is guided towards building a healthier lifestyle and as a result improves his or her heart health sustainably.
It is also very important that users reconcile the treatment approach with their doctor. Patients can download a lucid report summarizing the most important aspects of their heart health, which they can send to their practitioner.
Chivot: How do you see the role, impact, and challenges of digital tools like yours evolving in the healthcare industry, for both companies and users?
Hetzer: eHealth is the future of healthcare. Nowadays, the world gets more and more connected and that also holds true for the healthcare sector. With this change many benefits arise for patients as well as companies. On the one hand, applications like Cora Health empower patients to take the fate of their health into their own hands. On the other hand, companies in the health sector have the opportunity to get more information on patients to better react to their needs.
Looking at the challenges that accompany such a changing environment, we observe that at the moment, many players are fighting for the same market in specific eHealth niches such as telemedicine. In the next years, the market will consolidate and the challenge for many companies and startups will be to create a good, user-friendly product and reach as many people as possible to survive this process.
Chivot: How else do you anticipate using AI to help patients further in the future?
Hetzer: There are many opportunities for helping patients using AI. In the future, we could not only suggest patients customized exercising plans, but also support them with healthy nutrition and stress management.
In terms of exercising, AI will help us develop a more advanced exercise plan. For instance, thanks to AI, we can not only make use of medical data for our recommendation algorithm, but also other data such as the location of our users. Furthermore, this opens up opportunities for collaborations with partners such as fitness centers or golf courses close to our users’ home or workplace.
Thinking about nutrition, AI will help patients develop recipes based on food they favor, food that is both beneficial for their heart health and available during each season of the year in the region they live in.
AI provides us with a sheer endless amount of opportunities to help people live a healthier life.
Chivot: You are based in Tallinn, Estonia, but are travelling the world. What are the interesting differences that you can observe in terms of how populations value and approach their health?
Hetzer: First of all, it is really interesting to see that the view on health varies between cultures. It starts with nutrition and the products offered in supermarkets, and ends with the level of physical activity.
When we were in Sweden, for example, we found that the Swedes are very health conscious individuals. They mind their nutrition and like to exercise. When it comes to grocery shopping, one quickly realizes that there are more healthy products than in other European countries. Another interesting aspect is the way in which a government can nudge its population to live healthy lives. In South Korea, for example, we could observe many supporting measures for a healthy lifestyle. For instance, one of them was to incentivize people to take the stairs instead of the escalator by showing them how many calories they burn by walking.
Finally, I would like to say that we have been to many different countries and traveled four continents, but what we observed is that at the end of the day, health is everyone’s most precious good no matter which culture one belongs to and which country one is from.