There is no shortage Health and fitness trackers — The list of suppliers ranges from the mainstream (Apple, Google, Samsung, Fitbit, Withings) to the more esoteric and exclusive (Polar, Suunto, Garmin). The assumption underlying each of those devices is that you are more or less healthy and want to get in better shape.
But what if you're not healthy? Visible is lending its voice to the healthcare tech revolution – bringing hope to millions battling persistent chronic diseases, including chronic covid, and a much-needed spotlight on the underserved.
The company has emerged as a game changer in healthcare tech, bringing to the landscape an innovative “disease tracker” that helps users better manage their physical discomforts — a departure from the fitness-focused mindset that dominates most existing health wearables on the market. The company's software, which comes in the form of iOS and Android apps, harnesses the power of health technology and advanced data analytics to address the needs of acute cases of chronic illness — a market that Harry Leeming, co-founder and CEO at Visible, describes as “very rare.”
Visible was not initially set up to become a diagnostic tool for chronic COVID or other chronic illnesses. Instead, its journey began with the simple goal of streamlining patient communication during the chaos of the COVID outbreak. However, Leeming soon recognized the urgency of the protracted COVID problem and started thinking of building a “sickness tracker”.
“People are eager to keep the conversation moving away from COVID, but the truth is that chronic fatigue was a problem long before Covid hit the headlines. Chronic Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome — there's already a small patient community. Long Covid is a strong 'why now' slide.” — and it shed light on all these other situations,” Leeming said in an interview with TechCrunch.
Trying it out
As a chronic covid sufferer, I tried the solution earlier this year while at CES in Las Vegas. The company uses the Polar Continuous Heart Monitor band to track heart rate and heart rate variability throughout the day, using it as a proxy for how well your body is working.
From that, it gives you a “morning check in” rating from 1-5. If your rating is terrible, the app suggests taking it a little easier that day. If you get a 5, you're ready to run a marathon. Or, at the very least, stroll to a coffee shop and eat donuts. The app doesn't judge — but it does give you a general idea of how your day looks from an energy perspective, so you can plan accordingly.
On the busy show floors of CES, getting a thumbs up from the app was helpful. And one day, when it gave me the “erm, maybe chill today,” I chose to ignore it. Unfortunately, the app was right, and by 8pm I was a husk of a soul. Damn it, science.
Still, getting an early warning of how well I'm doing on a given day is a powerful tool — as many other long-term COVID sufferers have found with the Visible app.
“COVID definitely has a strong 'why now' effect. It shines a light on this huge, overlooked market of chronic conditions,” Leeming said. “We aim to take fitness, wellness and illness into account with our tracker. First, in November 2022, we launched a free app that uses your smartphone data. We've reached 45,000 people through organic growth. More joined the platform. Then we rolled out the premium subscription. Today, we have about 2,000 people using it.
Although the primary purpose of the application revolves around COVID monitoring, it is clear that it will have an impact far beyond those battling the pandemic virus. The company suggests that people with post-concussion syndrome, post-surgery fatigue and cancer recovery also benefit from Visible's data-centric approach. The tracker's broad appeal and versatile utility is an encouraging step forward for those marginalized by the “one-size-fits-all” model of traditional healthcare.
No longer just a risk assessment tool, Visible's “disease tracker” has evolved into a personal assistant for health management and a symbol of empowerment for patients. Leeming points out that the tool is still very much in its embryonic stage, and acknowledges that it only loosely guides decisions for now. But he had high hopes that it would yield good results.
In an ever-more demanding tech landscape, Visible trusts consumers to listen to their own bodies, giving them data to make more informed decisions. It's a refreshing idea — a tech company that doesn't overpromise and underdeliver, but sets realistic expectations for its evolving product. Even at this early stage, Visible seems to be starting to illuminate a new path for sufferers of chronic illness.