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The future of healthcare is self-monitoring

CEO of Playpal, talks about her struggle with obesity as a child, which played a role in the creation of her app

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PUBLISHED January 23, 2022

With a mixed health system including public, private, civil society and philanthropy, Pakistan is still far behind in creating a healthcare system that can cater to the population which is living below the standard. Several studies rank Pakistan’s healthcare system as not up to the mark or below the standard but with this huge population, inaccessible healthcare makes it difficult to priorities health. To somehow resolve this issue and make people understand their health needs, the Pakistani who made it to the Forbes next 1000 under the category of Healthcare and Science category, Eesha Sheikh came up with an idea that can reform how people see and prioritise their health. Sheikh is the CEO of Playpal, which is a proactive self-health monitoring platform and can bring along all health-related aspects in the palm of your hand.

How did she come up with the idea?

The young CEO is not just an innovative thinker but also a forward-looking businesswoman who turned her misery into an opportunity. As a child, Eesha had never cared about her physical well-being and by the time she reached the age of eight, she was diagnosed with clinical obesity. “A term I couldn't even pronounce at the time, my doctor's words echoed in my mind as my parents tried to come up with an action plan to battle my obesity. My father decided to incentivize [this for me] and offered me a deal. If I could lose 30lbs he would buy me my favorite toys,” she said sharing how innocent it sounds like a child the only source of encouragement was a reward so that she can be fit.

To achieve the said weight, she worked really hard and after the diagnosis the next few months she did everything she could to lose that fat, from milkshake diets to lemonade fasts, almost as if she was in a form of weight loss hypnosis. “I know how difficult it is to be healthy and how much input it requires but people don’t realise what unhealthy practices they have been following which is why I came with the idea where people can self-monitor themselves,” Sheikh told.


Despite coming from a privileged household and having the opportunities to understand her health needs it wasn’t easy for her to overcome the bully one has to face in the world, “My class fellows had done everything in their power to bring me down, from throwing my food to the floor to coining and calling me the meanest of names; my least favorite name was ‘The Human Jelly Donut’ - a name I repeated to myself on the daily - a word that didn't even make me feel human,” she shared what pushed her to keep working on her health and how still after years all this still echoes in her ears where she was considered as an object, with no friends and a diagnosis she didn’t even fully understand.

“I ended up losing a total of 65lbs by the time I was 10 years old. From the outside I was a tinnier, healthy young girl. I stopped getting bullied and I suddenly had friends but from the inside only I knew how I had lost the weight. The patterns were unhealthy, the method was cruel. I was cruel to my body mentally and physically,” she said adding that that practice made her firm that she will try that no child has to go through the practice she went through. The young 10-year-old vowed to never let any other child feel that way, even her young mind knew what she had done and what she had physically gone through to ‘transform’ herself was incorrect. “As I grew older, I decided to back my passion and emotions with scientific knowledge and research,” The young CEO said. Her education in chemistry helped her solidify her stance and her ultimate goal.

The health monitoring platform that has been working in the US right now is a mix of her knowledge and her thought determination that will help people understand their unhealthy habits and educate them on how one can reform their health in a better way. “I quickly realised after graduation I wanted to find a way to use my experiences and education to touch the lives of as many people as possible. Thus leading me to choose digital and health as tools to unlock my dreams,” Sheikh said who is a published medicinal chemist who is also working on anti-cancer drug development.

What is Playpal?

A majority is using smartphones and almost every smartphone has a health application, which if logged in can track from steps to your heartbeat. What Playpal does, which is different is that after monitoring, it tells you what you have been doing wrong or what good you can do to uplift your health. “Just imagine having a Smart Health Analyst constantly telling you what you need to eat, how you need to sleep when your vitals are going down. When they are coming back up and how you need to be leading a day-to-day life to prevent yourself from becoming susceptible to disease, helping you be the best version of yourself,” Sheikh explains.

The incentive model draws from her father's words, how he managed to encourage a stubborn eight-year-old to try to be healthy. “Playpal is a part of the very fibers that make me. It is a literal representation of the struggle people do to be healthy and what they should overcome. Everyone desires to be better or look better or wants to be healthy and it is to all those individuals that need the actual support in order to be their best versions,” she said. “I imagine a world in which the incidence of disease becomes so small because individuals can control their susceptibility to it,” she said.

Pakistan and healthcare


The system seems a futuristic idea and is in use in the USA, but still, a far-fetched dream in a society like Pakistan where going to the hospital is not considered a priority when the country is hit by inflation. “Thanks to Covid people have started using online services and with the technology boom almost everyone has started using smartphones now but still technologies such as Playpal will take another five to 10 years for people to realise and prioritize their healthcare,” Sheikh said, adding that majority of the population don’t realise how healthcare is important.

From private-sector health care in the country, which is expensive and difficult for people to afford to public sector health care, which is not up to the mark and people don’t even have faith in them, Pakistan has a very long journey to complete where awareness, education, and information is disseminated to the locals. “How can you expect someone who earns 25,000 rupees to understand why he needs yearly check-ups because for him feeding his kids a two-time meal is important but governments need to step up and intervene here,” she said criticising how just the reforms which the governments are doing are not enough.

What governments are doing?

With the 18th amendment in the constitution in place and provincial governments running the health sector while the federal government also playing its part in several reforms, Pakistan’s health sector is still far away from what needs to accept programs like Playpal. “The issue is not how the government will support such health monitoring platforms, the issue is lack of education among people but then again everyone in this country is struggling in one way or another,” said a health official for the provincial government. He also said that the government hospitals provide free-of-cost treatments and never deny treatment to any patient but the concept of cure and hospitals among the public is also a problem where people at first try self-medication, then they avoid going to hospitals as much as they can and only come to hospitals when either they are on the verge of dying or there is no other resort. “Self-medications is the worst problem our health care is facing,” he said.

How Playpal rewards users


The health monitoring platform calculates your achievements in health, keeps a track of your successes and then rewards you in terms of points that can be used to buy several plans from the platform.

The start of the platform kicked off when Sheikh took part in a study on gamified health with John Hopkins, Underarmour, and Aetna in 2015, 2016 and 2017. This study focused on the effect of incentives and gamified health on behavior change. It also gave the insight to put the puzzle together and Keeko was born. Keeko is a 2D combat shooter gaming app that showcases the main character Keeko trying to save the world from her arch-nemesis. This is when Playpal’s on-ground journey really began in 2017 Shiekh pitched the concept of Keeko to the Innovation Pavilion, the concept was approved. Denver, Colorado was where the concept of gamified health in retrospect to Keeko and Playpal is put together.

Today Playpal Games and ES games have received 100,000 and 1million downloads respectively and as to work on how to continue and ensure that individuals are living a healthy well-balanced life. The Digital Web and Mobile Platform offers users an advanced health profile and preventative analysis by tracking, consolidating, and analysing Physical and Cognitive Data from health apps, games, devices, IoTs, and other Third-Party Integrations. The platform combines this analysis with the patented Health Score to guide users towards better health and to incentivize them with real-world rewards using the Digital Currency. Playpal aims to become the largest Health Profiling and Connected Health System with the most diverse and secure Central Health DATA Repository.