Grace Gimson: Adaptive, Personalised, Digital Health Coaching App Supporting People To Develop Sustainable Daily Health Behaviours for Lasting Improvements to Their Physical and Mental Health

September 4, 2022

Launched in 2020, Holly Health’s adaptive, personalised, digital health coaching app supports people to develop sustainable daily health behaviours for lasting improvements to their physical and mental health.

We use a psychological, evidence based approach to empower individuals and communities to achieve mindset change and reach their health goals.

So far, we’ve supported thousands of members of the public to feel physically and mentally better, and aim to support 1 million people by 2025.

With UK health services getting more and more over-stretched, Holly Health’s digital health coach provides an evidence-based solution that can support entire populations, in a comprehensive and compassionate way.

Based on psychologically approved behavioural coaching approaches and through absorbing regular user feedback, Holly Health is a resource to ‘reset’ psychologically – helping people to make small behavioural changes which last over the long term.

Currently in use across NHS primary care, Holly Health is being distributed to patients (at no cost to the individual), in order to support those who typically experience poor access to services, and support healthcare professionals to deliver more care with less time.

Tell us about yourself?

I am a qualified health coach, as well as CEO and co-founder of Holly Health. Previously I have led operations & marketing at global corporations including Microsoft, Aldi and Facebook, before finding my true home in startups.

I always wanted to use technology to address a big human challenge, and have always been fascinated by psychology and human experience.

Through observations over 15 or so years, I recognised how technology could help us to form the daily structure needed to achieve sustainable habits, rather than the type of short term unsustainable changes we instinctively go for – from there, I got building.

I am also a self-confessed adrenaline junkie, having completed 400 skydives and competed in triathlons and marathons. When not building companies, you may find me up a mountain or under the sea.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

I’d spend more time pitching and selling to customers (healthcare providers who need a scalable healthcare solution) and less time pitching to investors

What problem does your business solve?

We know there are significant numbers of people who feel unsupported with their day-to-day health behaviours.

More than half of us want to improve how we eat, exercise, sleep, and want to manage this sustainably, but are unsure where we can access this help – not everybody is able to afford a personal trainer, life coach or therapist.

On top of this, as a population we are seeing rising chronic disease rates, including type 2 diabetes and mental health challenges.

Holly Health provides structure and support to the ‘unsupported middle’ – the people who are not health optimisers, and are not unwell enough to get specialist help.

The world of health advice and recommendations is a minefield of opinions, studies which contradict each other, and even some manipulation by the likes of the food industry.

We provide people with a personalised, compassionate, evidence based approach, rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ programme.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

Working in the fast-paced environments of high-growth startups led to me experiencing and observing regular experiences with burnout.

I realised that burnout was fast becoming the norm for so many people – and I wanted to find a solution.

I was raised by a family of engineers, so grew up surrounded by technology and technological innovation. This definitely spurred on my desire from a teenager to one day create a multinational technology company to help optimise human experience.

At Holly Health, I am able to do just that. Backed by scientific research and created by experts in psychology, Holly Health helps adults of all ages and genders to build sustainable healthy habits and find their life rhythm – free of burnout and restriction – for lasting improvements to their physical, mental and emotional health.

What is your magic sauce?

Our magic sauce is the ability to provide personalised health support at scale. While there are many other one-size-fits-all approaches to health and wellbeing, it is our human-like, compassionate health coaching service that is making a step-change in healthcare delivery.

Our team of experts have used their knowledge and research in unique psychological science and mindfulness-based approaches to develop one-to-one support for eating and exercising behaviours.

Holly Health coaches people to understand their relationship with food, their attitudes to nutrition, and emotional factors that affect eating, sleeping, exercising – providing insights into how feelings affect behaviours.

Importantly, Holly Health approaches this in a unique and scalable way – using intelligent algorithms to support each person.

We are heavily mission and impact focused. Many of us (including me) were brought up to equate good health with weight loss – so we instinctively turn to short-term exercise or diet regimes to try to improve things.

But, these short term and restrictive approaches very rarely improve our health in the long term – they often work against our biological systems, and create added stress and hopelessness. At Holly Health, we seek to change that.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

Our goal is to support 1 million patients to build healthier, happier lives.

By promoting a patient-led and preventative approach to wellbeing, we aim to prevent 50,000 GP visits a year.

We’ll do this by working with GP practices, supporting clinicians across a whole array of health behaviours – including physical, mental and emotional health – and giving users the confidence to take control of their own health.

Finally, it is really important for us to grow a happy and motivated team that share the same passion of using technology for good, and are able to have the creative freedom to do so collaboratively.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

We’ve realised how important it is to be prepared for the road to be longer than you anticipate (especially in healthcare sales) – integration and scale within the NHS takes time, and often more patience, than you initially expected.

A key learning point for us was to keep spending as efficient as possible, and retain a team with only essential core people near the start.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

We would like to connect with healthcare providers who are supporting patient populations, and employers who are supporting teams between 10,000-500,000 people.

In order to make Holly Health accessible to those that need our support the most, we build relationships with leaders who want to see real change in their population.

Advocates who can lead the way in proactive and preventive healthcare for mental and physical health can work with us to partner with local trusts, universities and larger primary care networks.

Reach out to us here: [email protected]

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