Healthcare app uses insurance incentives to get users up and moving

An ASU startup founded by Wilman Vergara employs novel methods to keep its users healthy

An app made by an ASU alumnus in partnership with University resources is poised to make an impact in the healthcare industry. 

Knosis is the brainchild of Wilman Vergara, who came up with the idea as part of his capstone project for a master’s degree in healthcare innovation at ASU in 2016.

His app uses an avatar to track the progress of users as they attempt to meet key performance indicators, or fitness milestones, in exchange for insurance incentives. Incentives include vanishing deductibles, waived co-pays and discounts on premiums.

Users will be able to log in online or on mobile devices and allow Knosis to access data from fitness trackers, like Fitbit. The app will partner with employers and insurance companies to determine appropriate rewards for achieving user goals.

Vergara said he had some initial concerns about executing his vision for Knosis with a limited budget and resources. However, with help from the HEALabs at ASU's downtown Phoenix and SkySong campuses, Vergara has been able to pull it off.

Rick Hall, the director of ASU’s Healthcare Innovation program and the founder of the HEALab at the Downtown Phoenix campus, met Vergara at his graduation and has worked to connect him with mentors, clients and partners.

“Every time I tell the Knosis story, as soon as I mention the avatar, I can see people’s interest peak,” Hall said.

Hall introduced Vergara to the CEO and founder of a population health organization from southern Arizona. She expressed interest in the startup and met with Vergara to discuss his project.

Vergara also met with an insurance executive, who Hall said is “likely to use Knosis or introduce Knosis to some potential clients."

Hall also connected Vergara with professor Kevin Gary, who runs the HEALab at the SkySong campus. From there, a team of ASU graduate students in software engineering were assembled to put together a beta version of the app.

Vergara will use the beta version for demonstration purposes when talking to potential partners and investors as the project moves forward. This will allow him to take his product to market faster, Hall said.

The student-based software development team is scattered around the country, with Vergara traveling in and out of the state for work. Jared Huber, an undergraduate student in software engineering at ASU and the team's leader, lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“(Vergara) is the visionary and key motivator,” Huber said. 

He described the project efforts as being rewardingly challenging, as the team attempts to bring Knosis to life from a distance.

Huber said the data provided will be compiled into extensive reports for companies, while employees will be able to access more basic information regarding their progress.

Vergara is currently preparing to pitch Knosis at the next stage of ASU's Venture Devils competition, known as Demo Day, where he can compete for further funding. The event is taking place Dec. 1 at the SkySong campus.

“We just need the resources through the funding to be able to perfect our platform and therefore be able to give our client a working prototype,” Vergara said.

Vergara said he believes the app will be successful because it gives employees motivation to live healthier lives while allowing companies to save money on employee healthcare. He said evidence shows that more than half of the users of his app completed health-related activities when offered financial incentives.

“It’s something new – it’s creative,” Hall said of Knosis' app. “It’s different and innovative.”


Reach the reporter at sabine.galvis@asu.edu or follow @sabinegalvis on Twitter.

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