Before starting CoachMe Health, Karin Underwood lived in Myanmar working with low-income women and tech workers to improve the quality of health research. "I became motivated to go to business school to learn from the best of private-sector leadership,” she told Forbes earlier this year. “My time abroad helped anchor me to what I cared about most: improving the health of low-income people."
After receiving her MBA from Stanford Business School in 2019, Karin founded CoachMe Health, “a scalable mobile platform to provide life-changing health coaching to low-income Americans with chronic disease.” Like many good ideas, Karin discovered a gap in the market and realized she had a solution. Myanmar may have set her up for success, but today CoachMe Health is about to improve the lives of those who have often felt forgotten not just by the healthcare system but health tech solutions.
According to the CoachMe Health website, the practice of health coaching has shown sustained and proven improvements in health outcomes in low-income populations. So while Medicaid pours billions of dollars in treating the effects of diabetes and heart disease, Karin is hoping to educate and reverse these conditions. By meeting patients on their phones, this app helps people set health goals that are right for them.
Karin is a strong believer in the power of health coaching. “It builds trust, and it helps patients build confidence,” she says. Trust is vital for users to invest their time and effort into the method, while confidence is “one of the best predictors of whether or not someone will change their health behaviors.” Coaches encourage small incremental change and keep users accountable.
Health coaching isn’t a service typically available to low-income sufferers. And Karin already sees results. While the app is still in its pilot stage, one participant, Maria who works as a janitor is a prime example of why the sector needs an affordable solution like this. “When we met her, her sugar levels had been so high that they had landed her in the hospital in the past,” Karin explained to Forbes. “Now, Maria is working with a CoachMe coach to develop the habit of walking more regularly and taking deep breaths when stressed. She now sees her blood sugar levels dropping each week, increasing her confidence. Two months into coaching, Maria is looking forward to showing her progress to her doctor, rather than dreading the visit.”
“The decision to start a tech nonprofit after graduating wasn’t easy, but I knew it was right,” Karin continues. “I decided to try to solve a big, intractable problem: our healthcare system mostly pays when we get sick, but not to keep us healthy in the first place. This is especially true for those with the least resources.” And Karin is right on time, as preventative healthcare becomes an increasing focus of health tech.
By spending time on a problem she wanted to solve, this Stanford graduate is empowering the most marginalized groups of people in the U.S. CoachMe Health isn’t just an exciting prospect for users, but signals a bright future for the next generation of health tech solutions.