Health and fitness: Healthtech platforms leverage AI to enhance product offerings

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Tech platforms operating in the health and fitness space are increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence to enhance their offerings. While these startups embrace the technology, they also stress that it cannot do certain things as good as humans do – like in motivating a user.

According to consulting platform GlobalData, spending on AI platforms in the healthcare sector globally is projected to grow $18.8 billion by 2027 from $4.8 billion in 2022.

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Unilever Ventures-backed startup Healthify (formerly Healthifyme), which offers services such as nutrition and calorie tracking as well as fitness coaching, has seen an increase in conversions and user engagement since incorporating AI into its services.

Health tech apps GFXETtech

“This has contributed to a doubling of conversions … AI is seen as a cost-effective alternative to personal nutritionists and trainers,” said Tushar Vashisht, cofounder and chief executive of Healthify.

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Healthify has a conversational AI coach, Ria, and a tool called ‘coach copilot’ that collaborates with human trainers. It also has a photo-based nutrition tracker, Snap. Users of this tool are 30-40% more engaged and retained compared to non-users, said Vashisht. The platform has 40 million users, with half of them using AI tools, he said.

The company acknowledges the importance of human involvement in ensuring compliance, accountability, and building meaningful customer relationships.

“Our customers as well as practitioners are very comfortable with 1% error rates. To be honest, humans have a higher error rate,” he said while highlighting that the firm has fine-tuned AI responses over time.

Talking about the potential of AI in the health tech space, Saurabh Daga, associate project manager of Disruptive Tech at GlobalData, said, “AI can help healthcare providers deliver better patient outcomes by improving efficiency, accuracy and proactivity of care. AI can assist in analysing large databases of health information, reducing the burden on healthcare professionals and enabling faster and more accurate clinical decisions.”

“Additionally, AI can help extract insights about healthcare trends, track patients over time, and forecast the likelihood of developing a disease,” Daga added.

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Jitendra Chouksey, founder of Pune-based fitness startup Fittr, which offers online fitness and nutrition coaching and personal training, said they have been incorporating AI into all their services, emphasising that while AI plays a significant role, it can never fully replace the human touch.

“AI cannot alter people’s behaviour, but it can make things easy, for example creating a diet plan, training plan, changing workouts, changing recipes based on your preferences. It can do all sorts of assistance tasks but it cannot motivate you,” he said.

Fittr has around 250,000 monthly active users and more than 5 million app downloads, Chouksey said. “The more AI becomes easy and accessible for everybody, the more humans will crave human interaction,” he added.

Fittr recently reported a profit on a quarter level and an annual recurring revenue run rate of Rs 120 crore.

Silicon Valley firm Khosla Ventures that has backed Healthify observes a growing trend of AI transforming the landscape of healthcare and fitness.

“We are just beginning to uncover the full potential of AI in healthcare and fitness. But even at this early stage, we are seeing a significant impact, whether it’s designing novel drugs that are capable of reaching areas we previously believed to be unreachable, designing human antibody therapies in silico (in a computer) before they are even manufactured in a lab, or how we recruit for and conduct clinical trials,” said Nessan Bermingham, partner, Khosla Ventures.

“In fitness, AI is already providing value in designing bespoke workouts, physical therapies, and nutrition plans that are constantly evolving based on one’s training habits, metabolic data, and user feedback – ultimately, giving people a better chance of achieving their fitness or health goals,” he added.

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