There is an increasing number of direct-to-consumer (DTC) solutions in the digital health market.
In this article, we’ll examine digital health categories – such as mobile health, wellness, fitness, nutrition and telehealth – and explore 15 promising consumer health and wellness applications.
So whether you are…
A consumer looking for a well-reviewed app to holistically improve your physical, emotional and social health and well-being.
An investor interested in finding the latest digital health and wellness startups with traction, customer validation and high growth potential.
Or a health care provider, government entity, or non-profit organization researching consumer health and wellness solutions which are making a great social impact.
You will learn more about the traction and validation these startups have gained, and what they offer in terms of holistic health and wellness.
15 Holistic Health and Wellness Startups for Consumers
Table of Contents
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital health solutions across the globe.
Telehealth solutions with virtual visits have been made available for a larger population; mHealth solutions that encourage physical exercise on mobile devices have seen a spike in new subscriptions; and mHealth solutions that track and advise on a user’s physical fitness, diet and nutrition have also gained popularity.
Many well-known mHealth and telehealth startups were founded before 2012.
Some of their apps are offered directly to consumers such as Fitbit, Strava, Amwell, Doctor on Demand for physical health, and BetterHelp, Talkspace, Headspace, Calm for emotional well-being. However, in most cases they are offered either through employer-sponsored programs or as a benefit offered by health care providers.
This has been especially true for telehealth solutions, possibly due to the higher cost of having virtual appointments and visits.
The DTC trend in digital health is accelerating in major economies such as the US, China, Germany, the UK, France and beyond.
This trend is driven by many factors, including consumer’s demand for healthcare flexibility and increased consumer health awareness, as identified in Pitchbook’s Q2 2020 research report on Retail Health and Wellness Tech.
It would be beneficial to understand the latest solutions in the DTC digital health and wellness space, so that consumers can use them after knowing the product offering and user reviews, and investors and other stakeholders can gain insights from traction and validation.
In this article, a holistic perspective to health and wellness will be explored.
This covers physical exercise, diet and nutrition, sleep improvement, physical illness care, emotional well-being and social well-being.
Definitions of Holistic Health and Wellness
Digital health not only benefits those who have diseases and need medical treatments, but also contributes to an individual’s holistic health and well-being from multiple dimensions.
The term “holistic” has been used implicitly or explicitly by health authorities such as WHO, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.K. National Health Service (NHS), and the Australian Department of Health. Non-profit organizations and companies provide detailed definitions of holistic health and wellness (American Holistic Health Association, British Holistic Medical Association, the National Wellness Institute, WebMD).
Built upon these definitions, holistic health and wellness considers the whole person and how each individual interacts with the environment, including physical health, mental health, occupational health, and spiritual well-being.
Startup Selection Criteria
Younger startups founded in 2013 or later, to highlight more recent solutions
Consumer facing (not employer-sponsored only)
App available on Google Playstore or Apple Store, to make it more consumer friendly
App receives a review score above 4 stars out of 5, to show user’s positive experience
Two of the following three (one of the three for social well-being apps), to show traction and validation from both users and investors:
Number of users or app-store downloads above 5,000
Accessibility in more than one country
Have raised above USD 10 million investment and have not been acquired
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Physical health: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, proper sleep, practicing safe behaviors and decreasing smoking, alcohol, and drug use are vital to physical health (The Australian Department of Health, The University of California at Davis, Iowa State University).
Physical Health: Physical Exercise
Freeletics is designed to assist in improving physical fitness through real-time health and lifestyle coaching, including video tutorials and audio sessions.
Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Munich in Germany, the app has reached over 10 million downloads in the Google PlayStore, making it the No. 1 fitness app in Europe.
The app is rated by more than 190,000 users, with a 4.2/5 rating in the Google Playstore and by over 16,000 users, with a 4.6/5 rating in the Apple App Store. The company claims the app has been used by over 51 million people and it is available to download in 10 languages and in 175 countries.
The audio-based mobile app Aaptiv plans, delivers and tracks physical fitness exercises for individuals. Founded in 2016 and headquartered in New York City, the subscription-base app has reached over 1 million downloads in the Google PlayStore (although the company claims 10 million downloads reached). The app is rated by over 53,000 users with a 4.7/5 rating in the Apple App Store.
As of November 2018, the app was available to download in over 20 countries.
FitOn offers not only fitness exercise but also yoga, pilates, and dance exercise. It delivers personalized plans, videos, content library, and expert advice without any cost, any subscription or any limit.
FitOn has made it clear that “all our workouts and personalized fitness plans are 100% free with never anything to pay. Yes, actually free, there is no catch. We are NOT selling your data or using it to target you with ads.”
Founded in 2018 and headquartered in Los Angeles, the app has grown rapidly by reaching over 1 million downloads in the Google PlayStore. The app is rated by over 24 thousands users with 4.8/5 in the Google Playstore and by 134,000 users with a 4.9/5 rating in the Apple App Store. The app has been used by over 4 million in the USA.
On top of its 100% free workouts, FitOn has a paid premium version FitOn Pro which helps users reach fitness goals faster.
The premium version includes premium music, personalized meal plans, 500+recipes, unlimited offline downloads and real-time heart rate monitoring.
Playbook offers not only fitness exercise but also yoga and pilates exercise, pre- and post-natal exercises.
It also offers guides on meditation, nutrition, supplements, fasting and sleep. It delivers personalized plans, daily new videos, and subscribers can text communicate with their personal instructors.
Founded in 2016 and headquartered in New York City, the app has reached over 100,000 downloads in the Google PlayStore.
Physical Health: Diet and Nutrition
Lifesum helps users to plan their diets, track meals and calory intake and also gather dietary tips and feedback.
It tracks your calories, macros, body weights, food in-taking, exercise and habits. Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, the app has reached over 10 million downloads in the Google PlayStore.
The app is rated by over 253,000 users with a 4.0/5 rating in the Google Playstore and by over 95,000 users with a 4.6/5 rating in the Apple App Store. The app is available to download worldwide, and it has been used by over 45 million as of May 2020.
Cara Care supports everyone with existing or potential chronic gastrointestinal issues. It offers a 12-week program as a personalized guide and tracks one’s digestion, stress, food, pain, and other symptoms.
It also provides a messaging function with personal dietitians with a typical reply window of a day.
The app is rated by over 1,000 users with a 4.6/5 rating in the Google Playstore and by over 2,000 with a 4.7/5 rating in the Apple App Store. The app had been used by over 400,000people as of June 2019.
Physical Health: Patient Care
MDBox is both an mHealth tool and a telehealth app. It offers video consultations with a certified medical provider at any time or day of the week. It does not require appointment or medical insurance.
It also enables prescription pick-up from local pharmacies.
Physical Health: Sleep Improvement
Dreem is a headband and app solution that helps people address their sleep problems. It encompassed several categories of digital health including mHealth, wearables and telehealth.
It tracks a user’s sleep history and generates personalized insights about one’s sleep and suggests coaching programs, including a series of sleep consolidation exercises, and to-do lists.
It also has a team of trained psychologists and certified experts available for phone consultations. Founded in 2014 and headquartered in Paris, France, the app has reached over 10,000 downloads in the Google PlayStore. The app is rated by over 350 users with a 4.5/5 rating in the Google Playstore and is also available in the Apple App Store.
It has been used by thousands around the world and the app is available in English and French languages.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
Mental Health: Emotional Well-Being
7 Cups is not only a mHealth tool but also a telehealth app. It offers free anonymous emotional support and counseling on-demand from over 420,000 trained active listeners and therapists.
The free support and counseling comes as a one-on-one chat with a trained listener at any time, chat rooms, community forums, online messages with licensed therapists, mindfulness exercises, wellness tests, suggested activities and short-length video content. It also offers video counseling with a licensed therapist for a monthly subscription fee.
Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Palo Alto in California, the app has reached over one million downloads in the Google PlayStore.
The app is rated by nearly 19,000 users with a 4.5/5 rating in the Google Playstore and by more than 3,000 users with a 4.4/5 rating in the Apple App Store. It has been used by nearly 54 million users in 140 languages in 189 countries. The app was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Technology Pioneer in 2019.
Instead of an army of trained human listeners by 7 Cups, Wysa is an artificial intelligence powered chatbot that helps users to talk through things or just reflect on the day, practice cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) techniques, use one of 40 conversational coaching tools to deal with stress, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, worry, loss, or conflict, and relax, focus and sleep peacefully with the help of 20 mindfulness exercises.
Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Bengaluru in India, the app has reached over one million downloads in the Google PlayStore.
Woebot is another AI powered chatbot designed to deliver cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) at scale.
The app helps users to think through situations with step-by-step guidance using tools from CBT, track their mood, and master skills to reduce stress and live happier through stories. Founded in 2017 and headquartered in San Francisco, the app has reached over 100,000 downloads in the Google PlayStore.
The app is rated by over 8,000 users with a 4.7/5 rating in the Google Playstore and by over 3,000 users with a 4.8/5 rating in the Apple App Store. Woebot is available worldwide and sent out messages to users in over 135 countries in January 2018.
Mental Health: Social Well-Being
Burn to Give synchronizes data from physical exercise apps and turns calories burned and daily physical activities into charity donation and meal delivery to children in hunger. It rewards users with both the joy of making a positive social impact as well as life insurance coverage that grows every day. Founded in 2018 and headquartered in Santiago, Chile, the app has reached over 100,000 downloads in the Google PlayStore.
In November 2018, Burn to Give earned a Silver Distinction in the 3rd Annual Shorty Social Good Awards. It is available in over 100 countries around the world.
Fabriq is neither a digital social network nor a dating app. It is one of the first apps for social well-being by tracking, reminding, managing and improving a user’s personal relationships, circles and people who are important. Founded in 2019 in Denver in Colorado, the app has reached over five thousand downloads in the Google PlayStore.
In March 2020 alone, Fabriq reported a 42% increase in the number of phone calls, texts and video chats people were having with friends and family, as well as a 20% increase in the number of daily users week over week.
Holistic Health and Wellness
The following startups cover certain aspects of both physical health and mental health in one app.
Asana Rebel offers not only fitness exercise but also yoga exercise, meditation and mind quizzes.
Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Berlin in Germany, the app has reached over 5 million downloads in the Google PlayStore.
Vida Health is not only a mHealth tool but also a telehealth app. It pairs a user 1:1 with a health coach, who creates a personalized plan with video/phone consultations and daily motivation through messaging, education, as well as the ability to track vitals such as exercise, diet, sleep, stress and weight.
Founded in 2014 and headquartered in San Francisco, the app has been used by enterprises including Fortune 500 employers, national payers, and large providers. It is also available to consumers with a monthly subscription. Vida Health app has reached over 10,000 downloads in the Google PlayStore.
The app is rated by nearly 600 users with a 4.5/5 rating in the Google Playstore and by over 1,300 users with a 4.6/5 rating in the Apple App Store. The app has been used by over 1.4 million in the USA.
Take-Aways with a Table
See of a summary of this startups list below (link to Google sheets):
As the DTC trend is accelerating in mHealth and telehealth categories of the digital health vertical, newer startups with great traction and validation have emerged around the globe.
The 15 selected startups in this article were founded after 2013 in the US, Germany, Sweden, France, India and Chile, and they have all received great reviews from a relatively good size of consumer users.
Key take-aways are:
Physical exercise apps are adding diet and nutrition benefits to enhance their offerings for users’ physical health;
Social well-being apps are emerging in 2020 to address the specific need of mental health in interpersonal relationships between friends and family;
Holistic health and wellness apps that offer benefits for both physical and mental health are increasingly well received by users.
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Written by Liyu Wang, Ph.D, Senior Innovation Researcher
Liyu has a Master Degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Oxford
Published on November 11th, 2020
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