#Asia This Singaporean app wants to keep you healthy through Traditional Chinese Medicine

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The app is meant to provide users with an every day diagnosis so minor sub-health conditions can be diagnosed

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Marrying the age-old concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with modern technology, a Singapore startup is developing a health-monitoring mobile app based on TCM concepts for everyday users.

Aimed at improving its users’ sub-health conditions — which refers to a state where a person does not feel well and is on the brink of falling sick — the app will assess its users’ health and provide them with simple solutions, according to local startup iHealth Innovation’s co-founder Professor Ser Wee.

The app, PulseTalk, makes use of a series of question and answers and a pulse reading component to monitor the user’s sub-health. The collated information will then be used to diagnose the user, directing them to TCM-based healthcare recommendations such as dietary suggestions. It is slated for release by the end of the year.  

While there are other tech products in the TCM world, Ser believes that PulseTalk is the only one to provide everyday consumers with a portable set of TCM diagnosis and solutions.

“What we’re trying to say is that you do not have to go to a physician, you can just use [our app] to get all kinds of information,” said Ser, an Associate Professor at Nanyang Technological University’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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For example, if a person is feeling stressed and under the weather, they could make use of the app to provide them with some simple solutions based on their measured pulse types and answers from the question and answer segment.

He noted that other similar tech innovations are targeted at physicians themselves, or are unable to correlate symptoms to their causes. One such rival is Russian company VedaPulse, who has also developed a pulse analysis device for home use, but users still require the help of specialists to make healthcare recommendations.

The concept of self-assessment and treatment came from Ser’s experience in working with Western-trained hospital doctors.

“One of their performance indicators is to reduce the number of readmissions – hospital beds are limited, so they want to reduce the number of people going to hospitals,” he said.

According to the professor, one way to do so is to encourage patients to self-diagnose and manage their own treatments. This concept was then shifted over to TCM.

“They said there’s nothing in the TCM world like that yet – so yes we decided to work on that,” he said.

Ser is part of a team of three at iHealth Innovation, which includes TCM physicians Thum Ching Kuan and Cheng Sim Kim. The trio were awarded an iJam Tier-1 development grant of SG$50,000 (US$36,600) for this project last year.

However, Ser warned that patients who had fallen ill should still see a TCM physician, as the app cannot provide users with a well-rounded diagnosis. PulseTalk is based on two of TCM’s four main diagnosis methods – namely, that of questioning and palpation.

Others too, are sceptical about the product’s ability to provide an accurate diagnosis and solution.

“To date, no product in the market can claim to replace a TCM physician analysis,” said another TCM physician Tan Koon Yaw. Tan noted that the other diagnosis methods – that of listening and smelling, and observation – should be used too.

Nonetheless, Thum believes that PulseTalk will be a simple and easy way for users to try out TCM solutions.

“There’s a trend of TCM getting more and more popular worldwide, as an alternative to western medicine. Now the issue is the lack of awareness of the TCM approach,” said Mr Thum, who is the Executive Director of the company.

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He hopes the app will attract middle-aged workers, who may not know as much about TCM as the older generation, by offering them TCM solutions for health problems that persist despite Western medical treatment.

PulseTalk will be released for free download, with a paywall for some of the its advanced features. The features that are to be charged for will be selected on a later date.

The company is also working on improving the accuracy of their pulse reading component – which involves developing and modifying a wrist-based wearable capable of reading pulses. They are currently in the process of securing more investments for the whole project.

Copyright: zhoushihua / 123RF Stock Photo

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