Dr. Miron-Shatz was CEO and co-founder of the startup Buddy&Soul, a digital platform for personal development and patient engagement. Buddy&Soul was part of the IBM Alpha Zone Accelerator.
Buddy&Soul offered modular support for patients and people in general, which they could use in their own time. Users could choose which circle of support to address when. Based on Dr. Miron-Shatz’s academic and industry experience, the Buddy&Soul interventions were engaging, and relied on CBT, motivational interviewing, and positive psychology.
Importantly, at no point did the interventions override or suggest the need to override medical advice. Rather, they offered the means for actively engaging in information search and deliberation around one’s medical condition. This allowed for increased patient participation in their care. The interventions were delivered in four tiers (a large assortment for patients to choose from, while a suggested path was also offered, to facilitate choice and provide direction).
Accordingly, the first layer of support offered is around medical conditions, in a cluster of three eCourses designed for patients:
- Manage your medical condition– tools for comprehending one’s position, what the risks and benefits of various treatments are, and what are the alternatives. Buddy&Soul does not provide any medical advice, but rather gives tools for helping patients explore where they stand, ask what medical terms mean. This can increase patient participation, and the effectiveness of medical encounters.
- Emotionally Manage your Medical Condition– provides scalable, success-based tools for dealing with the emotional consequences of one’s illness.
- Adhering to your Medication– helps people consider their medication and explore why they may not be fully adhering to it. The premise is that the medication, as prescribed by the physician, benefits the patient and needs to be adhered to. Buddy&Soul targets the main causes of non-adherence (e.g., disbelief in the medication’s effectiveness, McHorney, 2009). Should any gaps exist, for example, around expectations of what can be accomplished with the medication, the patient might be able to identify them using this eCourse and address them with his/her physician.
Following are three expanding layers of support and e-courses that were offered to people and patients.
Tools and skills for initiating and maintaining lifestyle changes. This is the C (capabilities) part of the COM-B model, allowing people to carry out the desired changes in their life. Specifically, Buddy&Soul offers eCourses on habit formation and willpower, both crucial elements in adhering to medication regimens, as well as to ameliorative lifestyle interventions around physical activity, nutrition, and more.
The third layer of support offers targeted interventions for initiating and maintaining specific lifestyle changes that have been shown to improve wellness, and have an ameliorative effect on health. These involve eCourses around mindfulness, stress management, sleep, sparking a change in one’s eating habits, and more. As literature reviews indicate, these have an effect on wellbeing, and occasionally also have an effect on pain.
The fourth layer of support involves engaging in personal development, completely outside the realm of lifestyle changes or medical issues. One of the main hurdles to wellness and patient platforms is the focus on things the person ‘should’ do, which ignores the person’s other identities – as an employee, parent, partner, aspiring artist, etc. By offering modules such as ‘Claiming your Self-Esteem’, ‘Achieving your Goals’, Decluttering your Mind’ and more, Buddy&Soul gives users a sense of personal development and growth. Especially in the medical context, this layer of support is decidedly unique to Buddy&Soul.