Dr. Osama Hamdy, the medical director for Joslin Diabetes Center’s Obesity Clinical Program, developed a weight management program targeting people at risk of developing diabetes or who need help to manage Type 2 diabetes. Now he has co-founded a healthcare startup to digitize that program. Boston-based Healthimation is designed to make clinically validated healthcare programs more engaging with the help of animation.
The company bills itself as “the first animation studio for healthcare,” according to a news release. Healthimation wants to ratchet up the gaming factor for its programs. To that end, the company boasts animation chops from Warner Brothers. Healthimation’s Chief Creative Director Mark Thompson has a career steeped in 3D animation at companies such as Turbine, a gaming company owned by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.
The avatar as coach isn’t a new trend —startups have embraced them for chronic care management, telerehabilitation, and even for making health insurance decisions. Generally, the idea is that they are less judgy and more fun than dealing with humans.
Healthimation gives users a customized nutrition plan, an exercise program and content intended to educate them with tips on weight management and diabetes with the goal of achieving healthier behaviors, according to the company’s website. The program is also designed to help users maintain muscle mass even as they lose weight to enhance metabolism.
Prior to its launch, Healthimation took on some of the talent and resources from virtual nutritional counseling service NuPlanit, including its founder and CEO Alaina Adams. NuPlanit is no longer active, a Healthimation spokesman confirmed. Adams is Healthimation’s CEO and co-founder.
In a phone interview with MedCity News, Adams said Healthimation is working with insurance companies and self-insured employers interested in adopting its programs, including for employer wellness programs. Although diabetes is the first program, the business plans to add others with a focus on chronic conditions.
“The way we really look at this is our health is a journey, our needs are constantly changing and that [these] changes are based on health needs,” she said. “We’re creating a visual journey to unlock rewards that are important to you.”
Healthimation licensed the Weight Achievement and Intensive Treatment, referred to as the Why WAIT program, from Joslin. In the release, Hamdy explained that with Healthimation, he wanted to expand the reach of the program to a wider audience and ramp up the engagement factor.
“We assembled a core team from fields like gaming, animation, and human interaction to attack the same problem from totally different angles. Our goal is to deliver highly effective programs while engaging patients each day with entertainment and information, ultimately leading to the same successful outcomes previously only achievable in a clinical setting.”
Correction: A previous headline was misleading. As the article notes, Dr. Osama Hamdy is the medical director for Joslin Diabetes Center’s Obesity Clinical Program.