Produced by SilverKris for NOVI Health
Diabetes remains one of the most common non-communicable diseases in Singapore. A 2010 report revealed that 1 in 9 residents between 18 to 69 years were affected by diabetes, with another 14% of Singaporeans aged 18–69 years diagnosed with pre-diabetes. To combat this, three medical doctors – Dr. Sue-Anne Toh, Dr. Kyle Tan and Dr. Joanne Tay – came together and founded NOVI Health in 2018. The Singaporean health tech startup specialises in diabetes care and weight loss, with a unique holistic approach that integrates clinical treatments with behavioural and lifestyle interventions.
“Even if you have the best expertise to come up with the perfect assessment and plan to get healthier, human beings are not always rational,” says Dr. Toh, a senior endocrinologist and CEO at NOVI Health. That’s why NOVI facilitates building trusted relationships between users and its care team who can empower them on their journey and support them all the way.
Through NOVI Health, users receive hyper-personalised health solutions that combine both precise medication with one-on-one health coaching to prevent or better manage diabetes and other lifestyle-associated chronic health conditions. The startup is currently focused on diabetes care and weight management, but will expand into health optimisation and improving health longevity through highly customised preventive strategies in the near future.
Closing the diabetes care gap
Current diabetes care is often episodic, and not personalised or holistic enough. Patients are often left to manage their condition on their own between their consultation dates. NOVI Health aims to close this care gap: Users use wearable devices and continuous glucose monitors to track data and receive timely feedback and support from a health coach via the Novify app, all tailored to their unique needs and goals. The coach delivers nutrition and fitness advice, which complements the medical advice given by their doctor. This ensures that users receive care that’s seamless and holistic.
“While physicians are excellent at prescribing medication and providing medical care, with advances in technology, nutrition, behavioural and sports science, we really should be looking at helping individuals improve their health more holistically . A patient is simply not one body part or one test result. That’s where our solution comes in,” says Dr. Kyle Tan, who heads NOVI Health’s product development as their Chief Product and Business Development Officer.
New users are educated on how to manage their own health when on-boarded on the app and program, and also receive virtual one-on-one support and coaching in between.
NOVI Health also focuses on people with pre-diabetes and excess weight. Most people assume diabetes only happens to those who are obese, but Dr. Toh is quick to correct this misconception. “Asians develop complications like diabetes and fatty liver without being as overweight or obese as their non-Asian counterparts.” Dr. Toh stresses that regular screening is important, even if an individual is not overweight, to determine if they are at risk.
Knowing there is a better way to live with diabetes has been liberating for many NOVI patients. “A patient with newly diagnosed diabetes whose own father passed away due to complications from diabetes said to us: ‘I always thought diabetes was a death sentence. But after being with NOVI Health, I see it as a new lease of life,’” reveals Dr. Toh.
“While it does require commitment to changing the way he eats and exercises, he says it was a much-needed wake up call to prioritise his health. Because he was able to make positive changes early on, he could put his diabetes in remission in an enjoyable and sustainable way.”
Weight loss and healthcare beyond diabetes
While NOVI started to tackle the chronic disease epidemic with diabetes, the founders quickly realised that they could make an even larger impact by addressing the challenge further upstream. Now, the platform works with a broad spectrum of users, ranging from those who may be healthy to those who are at risk for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fatty liver and obesity, with the goal of helping them get healthier and avoiding progression to chronic disease.
“These aren’t necessarily folks who frequent aesthetic or slimming centres, but individuals who are concerned about their weight for health reasons,” Dr. Tan explains, citing the representation of individuals in their 30s among NOVI users. “They want to ensure that they are healthy and fit in their 40s or 50s, to be able to spend quality time with their growing kids and loved ones. And that means proactively managing any risk factors, such as excess weight.”
The upswing in this demand is so remarkable that NOVI now sees as many patients looking to lose weight for health reasons, as they do for diabetes treatment.
At the same time, Dr. Tan explains that many still wrongly believe obesity is solely due to a lack of exercise. “While exercise is important for overall health and can promote weight loss, often there are multiple factors such as diet, sleep as well as medical aspects that need to be addressed. Weight loss is best achieved with holistic and highly personalised advice that’s delivered promptly. Some individuals may even benefit from medication to kickstart the process.”
Their weight management programme is rooted in an emphasis on consistency and behavioural change. Through the Novify app, users can track their behaviour and receive tailored exercise and nutrition plans, receive virtual one-on-one weight loss coaching and support, and medication where appropriate.
NOVI’s new vision for health optimisation and longevity
The founders hope to reframe the way patients view their health. It’s perhaps only fitting then that the company’s name novi means “new” in Latin. “This name represents a fresh perspective on health and healthcare.”
Moving forward, the health tech startup aims to continue pushing the boundaries of health, moving beyond disease management to proactive health optimisation for longevity. This includes not just traditional lab tests for diagnosis, but a holistic and preventative approach through the use of genetic and biomarker data.
The founders also want to start a public conversation about health optimisation and its benefits, such as prolonged vitality and reduced risk of chronic diseases, and empower more individuals in Singapore and globally to take control of their health.
“Ultimately, NOVI Health is for everyone who wants to become healthier and believes that change is possible,” shares Dr. Toh. “Our goal is to make health simple and sustainable.”
To learn more about NOVI Health, visit the official website.