Over 10% of the world’s population is affected by anxiety and depression. The American Psychology Association (APA) reported that millennials are the most stressed generation. More than 70% of people worldwide don’t even have access to mental health services today.

What if there was a way to close this gap? Could AI-based behavioral health intervention be a part of the solution? To answer this question, we collaborated with Bayer iHUB, a Digital Innovation Group based in Silicon Valley. We designed Welly, an AI coach that offers health insights based on a user’s health metrics.

Bayer iHUB’s goal is to help the global anxious population (~270M) to understand the root causes of their stress based on their biometric wearable data. This mission has the potential to unlock a new revenue stream of over $60M per year for the company. Bayer invited us to discover new opportunities in this space by combining AI and smart sensors with health care.

We aspired to merge healthcare needs with smart technologies and empathetic design to create a new user experience for the global consumer. Together, we created Welly, a digital “life coach” in an app that reinforces positive mental and physical health habits.

“The way the concept is right now and the way it has evolved! It wins my heart. The quality of your work exceeded our expectations.”
Julio Cesar Bolivar, Program Manager, Applications and Sensors, Bayer LifeScience iHUB

Enabling physical and mental self-care

Our team of designers and strategists wanted to understand how millennials are managing stress today. Our qualitative and quantitative studies showed that even when people have access to their health metrics like sleep patterns, heart rate, or blood pressure, they aren’t quite sure what to do with that information. Additionally, most good intentions to cope with stress and be physically fit tend to fizzle out quickly.

We further asked: How might we enable millennials to cope with stress in positive ways? How might we empower them to include physical and mental self-care as part of their daily lives to sustain them in the long run?

Through extensive research, we found that 83% of millennials wished to improve their health with self-health technology. 53% of US adults who exercise regularly, do so to cope with stress. Based on these findings, we sought to empower and engage anxious millennials to adapt and adhere to regular healthy habits that reduce stress.


Meet Welly

Geared toward millennials, we conceptualized Welly, a digital AI coach. Welly analyzes a user’s health metrics from all their wearables, smart sensors, and smartphones, gives them a cohesive view of their health conditions and stress indicators, and offers personalized recommendations.

Welly stands apart from other healthcare apps, because:

  • It allows you to view your health metrics like sleep, calm, and activity in one place, without switching across various apps
  • It offers two engaging AI personas. A friendly “Coach” who is available 24/7 to answer questions and offer advice and encouragement—and a “Challenger” who playfully nudges you to be a healthier version of your current self
  • Machine learning algorithms analyze data gathered from users’ wearables and mobile devices. Over time, these algorithms offer deeper, interdependent, and personalized health insights to the user
We looked into the behavioral psychology behind goal setting.

Becoming your aspirational self

Welly motivates users to reach the fitness levels of their aspirational “better selves.” For example, Welly Challengers nudge users to take part in health challenges. As soon as they surpass their current Challenger in fitness levels, a new one emerges. Each Challenger has a unique persona and is marginally healthier than the user.

Behavioral insights taught us that a surmountable gap in fitness levels between user and Challenger made victory against the Challenger seem attainable. Competing with a Challenger is intentionally realistic with near wins and losses. The variable reward of meeting new Challenger personas keeps the user intrigued and motivates them to keep practicing positive health habits.


Sustaining long-term engagement

Validation tests of our initial concepts taught us that we’d directed our attention on offering health insights and had failed to consider ways to keep users engaged and motivated long-term. We went back to the drawing board.

Based on Yu-kai Chou’s gamification motivators, we designed Welly to give users tangible evidence of their progress. We were careful not to offer points, badges and rewards without true challenges. We designed the Challenges to align with a user’s current health abilities and interests.

To contrast and balance the playful, competitive nudging from the Challenger, we introduced a supportive Coach who offers gentle encouragement and useful suggestions.

These differentiators of the Welly ecosystem can help Bayer iHub improve consumers’ mental health at a massive scale and establish a digital revenue stream by offering AI-based behavioral intervention for anxious global millennials.

Positive habit formation was reinforced by drawing upon user’s innate curiosity and spirit of competition.
Behavior motivators, like feedback on user’s performance, help increase user engagement.
Social motivators based on a sense of achievement, recognition and acquisition were integrated into the designs.

From app to business strategy

We worked on a business strategy for Welly and developed a business case of revenue potential for stress management. We also quantified market opportunities in stress for a one-pager pitch—this was based on secondary desk research, value proposition design and business modeling. Business strategy and design streams worked in parallel and each stream informed the other throughout the project.


The impact of Welly

Our mobile app, Welly, stands at the intersection of two life-changing realities—one is the exponential growth in “intelligent computing” trends such as AI, machine learning, chatbots and smart sensors, and the other is the dramatic global increase in stress levels among millennials.

Stress is a driving force behind mental and systemic disorders concurrent with most diseases Bayer treats today. Welly empowers Bayer iHUB to launch a new service in the Mobile Health Tech industry and helps wearable companies increase their market share and loyalty by differentiating between good and bad stress and understanding the root causes of those stressors. Most importantly, Welly helps our anxiety-ridden population to adhere to healthy habits and find value in self-care.

“The team displayed competence across roles, they were creative and knowledgeable. Appreciated the collaboration, flexibility, speed of reaction and patience.”
Riddhi Shah, Senior Data Scientist, Bayer LifeScience iHUB
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