About 80 per cent of chronic diseases – such as diabetes and hypertension – are driven by lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. An innovative tool called the EMPOWER app, jointly developed by NUS School of Computing and SingHealth, is showing great potential in providing timely interventions for patients with diabetes, as well as those afflicted by other chronic diseases, to adopt healthy lifestyle choices and behaviors, and in turn, achieving better health outcomes.

EMPOWER uses AI to analyze data collected from wearable devices such as smart watches to help users monitor their health-related habits and deliver timely in-app notifications or digital ‘nudges’, for example, to remind users to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly , and take medication as prescribed by the doctor.

Rolled out in 2021 via a large clinical trial involving 1,000 diabetes patients, EMPOWER has demonstrated encouraging results, including increased physical activity, and a statistically significant improvement in HbA1c (glycosylated hemoglobin) levels after three months, with some patients having sustained improvements after 12 months .

EMPOWER was recently showcased at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress 2023, which was held on 22 and 23 September 2023.

Professor Teo Hock Hai from NUS Department of Information Systems and Analytics and Principal Investigator of the project, said, “The time is now ripe for a healthcare model transformation. With the right policies in place, leveraging cutting-edge technology can empower individuals to actively manage their health by providing them access to personalized health and lifestyle information, smart monitoring tools, and communication platforms with healthcare providers. This approach ultimately fosters informed and shared decision-making and encourages proactive self-care, moving away from a physician-centric practice.”

Associate Professor Low Lian Leng, Director of SingHealth Center for Population Health Research and Implementation as well as Chief Medical Informatics Officer of SingHealh Regional Health System, said, “The EMPOWER app is akin to a healthcare companion for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension The app’s AI capabilities help patients better keep track of their health and lifestyle habits sends out personalized nudges based on their needs, and provides them with access to health advice. Smart technological tools like EMPOWER are important in enabling us to achieve a Healthier SG, where patients and the community can better manage their chronic conditions and take charge of their health.”

A second trial involving 320 diabetes patients to evaluate advanced features and health coaching is ongoing.

How does EMPOWER work?

EMPOWER-ing diabetes patients to lead healthier lifestyles

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