From her own personal journey in health and wellness, Helen Pak-Harvey knew there were evidence-based ways to support wellness that Western-trained medical doctors probably won’t tell you. That’s why she created Durham-based Wholistics Health in 2018 to disseminate information to help users manage chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer.
The idea was to spread information in a way that was easy for users to digest and took very little time, Pak-Harvey said.
“Nobody has more than 10 to 30 seconds before they get distracted with something else,” said Pak-Harvey, who is Wholistics’ Founder and CEO. “That guiding principle led us to develop this chatbot as a way to disseminate micro doses of content to the user as a morning message that gets delivered to the mobile phone.”
On March 28, Wholistics Health was named a semi-finalist for NC IDEA’s Spring 2022 SEED grant cycle. If selected in May, the grant recipients will receive $50,000 in funding to help their startups grow.
Pak-Harvey said the money would enable Wholistics Health to grow its team. It would also support the development of Wholistics’ Spanish module and help them scale.
The tips and guidance that the Wholistics Health chatbot sends incorporate both the body and mind. Companies and health organizations will pay Wholistics Health directly to make this resource available to employees.
With Wholistics Health, chatbot customization is also possible; users can select their own health and wellness interests to personalize the tips they receive regularly. Ultimately, Pak-Harvey said, the goal is to drive behavior modification in users in a simple and easy way.
“We all know it’s very difficult to change behavior,” Pak-Harvey said. “But if you repeat something over and over, without really knowing the person, in short bursts of information, we do believe that this will help drive behavior modification.”
These lifestyle behavior changes can be achieved at a low cost for company clients on behalf of their employees—as little as $1 per person per month.
So far, Wholistics Health has signed on the State of North Carolina Office of Minority Health as a client for up to 1,000 users and is in the process of building out Spanish modules that will be available in June. Wholistics Health also has another client that white-labels Wholistic’s content—the client uses it under their own branding—for a nominal fee.
Pivot to the chatbot
Originally, Wholistics Health started as a website directory of holistic health providers, but over time, Pak-Harvey said the chatbot proved to be a more effective way to help modify behavior.
“It pivoted quite a bit, but what has not changed is why we exist,” Pak-Harvey said. “We’re Wholistic. ‘Wholistic’ means we take a mind-and-body approach, the whole person-centered approach to health and wellness. That hasn’t changed. It’s what and how we disseminate the information that has morphed.”
Since 2018, Pak-Harvey said she has learned a lot about startup life with Wholistics Health. Like most founders, she’s seen a few curveballs. Throughout Covid-19, a few potential client healthcare organizations initially expressed interest only to get bogged down with the pandemic and back out.
That hasn’t dampened Wholistics Health’s mission, though. Pak-Harvey wants to bring health and wellness to everyone, not just people who can afford it through the traditional avenues. There are many things we can do in our daily lives that do not require a lot of time or money, Pak-Harvey said. All it takes is a willingness to change.
“You might be food-insecure and you don’t have the luxury to shop at Whole Foods and look for organic produce,” Pak-Harvey said. “At the same time, there are a lot of things you can do that are within your control and that are affordable.”
That’s the appeal of Wholistics Health. In the next few years, Pak-Harvey wants the startup to reach a million users and create some strong partnerships that integrate the chatbot to encourage healthier living.