Choosing the Right Business Health Application

Alexandre Chagnon, co-founder of TherAppX (Photo: Courtesy)

MENTAL HEALTH OF THE EMPLOYEE. Health apps have exploded in recent years. There are now over 300,000 in the Canadian market and their growth continues. These applications are also becoming increasingly popular among Quebec entrepreneurs who want to maintain the mental and physical health of their employees. Several parameters must be taken into account before setting your sights on any of them.

From the platform for sports to the platform dedicated to meditation, through the provision of food or the establishment of psychological services, the health applications are very varied. Before the pandemic, nearly one in three Canadians used one on their cell phone, a percentage that has increased since then.

Pharmacist by training and graduate of health informatics from the University of Sherbrooke, Alexandre Chagnon, wanted to help those who want to compare the merits. In 2018, he co-founded TherAppX with his colleague Michael Cardinal, a web-based platform that evaluates health-related applications. “We wanted to create a place that collects and evaluates all the information about the applications,” he explains. They often have updates so you need to constantly update the information and the overall rating. †

Some main criteria

To evaluate health applications, TherAppX is inspired by the international standard ISO 82304, which “applies to the security and safety of health software products designed to run on common computing platforms and intended to be marketed without special hardware” .

“This standard contains more than 80 assessment criteria. This allows us to produce labels with A, B, C or D color pads for any application, depending on whether they meet certain requirements,” explains Alexandre Chagnon.

The appguide tool, which lists all this data, takes into account four main pillars. First, confidentiality. “The application should not force you to provide personal information without a valid purpose and should be confidential,” he explains. Then security, such as protection against computer attacks. The application must be user-friendly in order to be accessible to as many people as possible. The fourth rated pillar, only available on the version premium from TherAppX, is the relevance of the app. “We make sure that the expected clinical outcomes (reduction in migraine, reduction in hypertension, etc.) are very real,” specifies Alexandre Chagnon.

Pierrich Plusquellec, researcher in behavioral biology and associate professor in the School of Psychoeducation at the University of Montreal, leaned on the same pillars to develop his application EmoScienS in 2019. It is a web platform that allows you to analyze emotions by taking pictures at regular intervals. “Emotional intelligence is a strong predictor of our mental health,” he says. It is therefore important to be aware of this. Since we spend 5 to 10 hours a day in front of our screens, whether for entertainment, meetings or working, this is a relevant indicator. †

“Facial expression analysis is already being used in marketing, advertising and more. We wanted to use this technology in an ethical and socially responsible way, he continues. We have an ethical charter and a highly developed privacy policy. †

So the application does not save any photos. They are cleared a few minutes after ingestion. The daily activation is managed by the user, who chooses when to start the application and the interval between the photos. “The advantage is that once activated, it doesn’t take long; everything is automatic. †

In a work environment

Since its inception, TherAppX has always had a desire to work with workplaces. The team assesses their needs and offers them a subset of applications that may be suitable. Over the course of their experiments, Alexandre Chagnon and his colleagues made several observations. “A single application for all employees won’t work,” he says. Employees don’t like it because they feel like the employer is imposing on them and maybe they have an agreement with the creator of the platform. It is better to choose multiple applications”.

The EmoScienS application – still under development – is also aimed at workplaces and does not want to impose its system. “It’s never a good way to do it. The idea would be that the employer buys the application and the employees use it however they want, says Pierrich Plusquellec. Their data remains personal and the manager, for example, could only have access to a general emotional state of his team. †

The team is planning several improvements. “We would like to offer an automatic detector of emotional changes for better awareness and personal analysis,” says Pierrich Plusquellec. The application will also soon make it possible to find professional mental health resources directly on its platform. Other additions, such as speech or typing speed analysis on the computer and a smartphone version, could also see the light of day. “We want people to take responsibility for their well-being. They are the ones who will judge what is relevant to them or not. †

According to TherAppX, it is important that the employee is helped in his choice of application. “We ask him a few questions based on his needs so he finds what works best for him,” says the co-founder. It really is the most appropriate strategy. †

Relieves the mental load

Keen to adapt to the different needs of workers, Farnel Fleurant launched Workin in the midst of a pandemic. After more than 15 years in the world of corporate communications, she realized that “in general, employers offered few concrete solutions to support employees in their daily lives”. So she developed an app to help them. The web platform offers nearly 300 products and services, grouped under four main themes: nutrition, health and well-being, quality of life and recognition and personal development. “We want to promote goodwill in the workplace and take preventive action. Our goal is to reduce the mental load on employees and encourage them to take care of themselves,” says Farnel Fleurant.

To use Workkind, the employer subscribes to the service and gives the amount it wants to its employees. “They can use the money in their personal wallet to buy the services they need directly from the platform, as well as to give gifts to their colleagues and loved ones,” explains the founder. Employees are allowed to shape the life balance that suits them. And managers to really make a difference in the lives of employees, in complete confidentiality. On average, employers invest $300 to $1,000 per year for each employee.

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