What do our personal health analysts do? They search for the causes of your feeling ill, provide support and help you feel better. We often get asked about this profession. So we decided to post a first-person story about it. An insight, so to speak.
Interviewee: Ekaterina Zhalyuk You might have talked to her in our app.
Katya, could you tell us about your profession? What does a health analyst do?
The short answer is: I make people’s lives easier. The user takes measurements of their energy and stress levels in the app. In addition to that, they connect gadgets, fitness wristbands or apps that transfer data about their lifestyle. The amount of sleep they get, how much time they spend at work and how productive they are. I study all these data and find correlations, for example, a user worked till 11pm and their stress level increased in the morning. I give recommendations on how to improve wellbeing and quit bad habits.
How long have you been a health analyst?
Since February 2016. I was one of the first analysts at Welltory. Our research started in May 2016. We offered everyone a free 30-day trial period to use our service and tackle one of the following problems: reduce stress, beat insomnia or find headache causes.
And how did it go?
We did it! We helped people reduce stress and sleep better. Many of them became our loyal users. As for headache, it’s more complicated. It can be caused by different things. For some, not skipping breakfast is enough to beat it. But we weren’t able to identify the causes for all our users in one month. We continued to investigate.
It’s much more interesting to work now! We have developed a methodology and now have a massive data base of our accumulated experience and cases.
Some recommendations are universal and can quickly improve a person’s health. For example, one of the most frequent correlations is that users get more energized and sleep better when they start taking 8000-10000 steps a day, the amount WHO recommends. Walks increase the “battery” in the morning. Or if you want to quickly reduce stress, you can have a massage.
Many people want to know how you decide what to recommend. What do you base your decisions on?
I work with evidence, data and mathematical analysis. You can predict a lot knowing and understanding the laws of mathematics. First we collect statistics: the user’s sleeping schedule, heart rate, working time, etc. Then we find correlations. For example, 50% of our users are weather sensitive. And it’s not something a physician would diagnose, it can be traced only by analysing data. Our experts give recommendations depending on the user’s health.
Do analysts and experts work in tandem?
If I see that the data shows problems, I first search for simple causes. For example, jet lag or too much alcohol. We try not to disturb our expert doctors with simple questions. But when things are more complicated, hypertension, for example, that’s a different story. Data change because medicines affect heart performance.
Does the user talk to experts as well, or only to their health analyst?
Of course! They can always ask questions and get advice. Say, our client wants to develop a workout programme or wishes to find an ideal diet plan or improve their sleep. In that case they, of course, consult a specialist in that field. If someone loves cheesecakes but wants to lose weight. What can we substitute it with? A dietitian finds recipes.
So it’s not like, “Cheesecake? What are you talking about, you should go run outside immediately!”
Of course not. We find solutions that are easy to apply. And the user shouldn’t feel that they are losing something, otherwise they will develop a strong urge to do what they stopped doing, that’s how the mind works. We find a substitute, we experiment and then the person sees that their health improved. And they become gradually aware of how their body functions. It is a paradigm shift.
Could you give us some example cases from your own experience?
Well, people are very different. Sometimes you need to do easy things in the morning, quick and easy. And leave difficult work for the evening. We find this out by analysing heart rate variability, we track how stress and energy levels change.
Here is an example, one of our users got used to working out in the morning. The data showed that that decreased their energy and made them very tired. We recommended to work out in the evening, 3-4 hours before going to bed. The result? Their energy went up to 68%!
Any other cases that stood out?
We once had a House-M.D. kind of case. Our client, an entrepreneur, lead a healthy lifestyle, worked out and kept a healthy diet. Then suddenly he started having panic attacks. He woke up in horror every night. Medical examinations and tests showed that everything was ok and there were no apparent causes. They kept searching but the person was healthy! Meanwhile he no longer had healthy sleep and was afraid to go to bed.
Our nutritionist asked him to keep a diet diary. So, it turned out, that our client worked out a lot and kept a no-carb diet. That created an energy hormone surplus. The solution was simple, to add pastry, sugar or complex carbs to the diet. And it worked, his sleep is virtually perfect now.
Could you tell us about another case?
Young woman, a freelancer, worked late at night. Stayed up until 2-3 in the morning. She didn’t like that she was overweight. We analysed her data and asked her to keep a diet diary. Turned out that everything was simple, she ate more at night than during the day. Because of her unbalanced sleeping schedule ghrelin, “the hunger hormone”, was produced and she overate and didn’t notice it. She started going to bed earlier and started losing weight, sleeping better and reduced her stress to 14%.
Many people ask how you can diagnose something remotely.
We do not make diagnoses! That would be wrong. We ask our clients about their diagnosed chronic diseases. If we see that something is wrong we recommend going to a doctor and getting tested. And only after that our experts get the results and study them. Welltory is not about treatment, it’s about a lifestyle that prevents diseases.
What is the most important aspect of your work?
Everyone is always stressed. Everyone is tired. That’s why our main function is to help, show what affects your health and how to reduce the number of harmful factors, and using numerical data prove that you can feel way better.
Let’s take bad habits, they are much easier to get rid of if the user sees the numbers showing that drinking alcohol in the evening decreased their energy and increased stress. And that they feel unwell for several days after that!
We all know, that bad habits are harmful, we just procrastinate doing something about it.
Also, people can’t really change anything if they are stressed. First you need to reduce strain and increase energy, that’s when you will actually want to run in the morning or at least stop drinking. Watching TV series on the sofa is what tired people choose, they are not particularly eager to kick their habits.
So you help people combat tiredness?
Exactly. We make life easier, we can make a medical or massage appointment or even call a taxi for you to get there. We recommend what kind of medical tests you should get, where to go at the weekend to be energized on Monday and how to fight stress quickly.
What if someone can’t abandon their bad habits?
We try to find a way. We search for something that is easy to apply. And when the user sees the result, they get more enthusiastic about it. We have an individual approach to everyone, some people are competitive, others need emotional support.
Why did you choose this profession?
I have always been studying the human body and mind. I majored in anthropology. Then I worked in the massage field for 6 years. Then I wanted to work with people’s mindsets and completed Maria Danina’s wellness coaching course. It was she who introduced me to Jane Smorodnikova, a co-founder of Welltory.
I was offered the job of a health analyst. I was thrilled by this idea! I liked the system — to believe only facts and numbers and find what actually helps for everyone individually.
You mentioned mathematical data analysis. Was it hard to learn?
At first I thought I’d go crazy! Always having someone to ask for advice helped me a lot. After about 3 months I got over the humanities barrier and it got much easier.
How important is having medical education? I often get that question.
Medicine helps me a lot. I am combining work and study. But many people from our team have different education. We get taught basic human physiology, neurophysiology, psychology. The main thing is to have a researcher’s mindset. Strictly medical questions are dealt with by our experts.
What is your typical day at work like?
SleepSycle wakes me up. I get up and get ready for the day. I start my working day looking at users’ questions which they asked the previous night. During the day I analyse data and talk to our users. I like that I work through an app and not over the phone or in person. When I get questions I have time to think or ask experts. I always learn something new. But you need to be really interested in gadgets, healthy lifestyle and interaction with people. Otherwise it is going to be difficult.
What would you recommend someone who wants to become a health analyst?
Be ready for anything. Every client has their own way and you are their witness. You observe without judgments and help them improve their lifestyle. You shouldn’t be afraid of mistakes and difficulties. Think of each situation as an opportunity for personal growth. Team work skills will come in handy. Be open to interaction, you will be constantly learning something new and develop.
Let’s sum up. The health analyst’s job is interaction, data management and analysis.
You also need to understand how devices and gadgets work. You need to know how to: set them up, connect and help your client. We get taught these things, but for someone from the IT sphere it’ll be easier.
What do people think of your profession? How do they understand it?
People get curious and say, “I want to do that too!” My relatives are very supportive and understanding.
Tell us what you like the most about your profession?
You get really inspired when you see that your recommendations and observations work and that your client feels better. These moments are when I feel enormous satisfaction from my work!
Katya, thanks a lot for the interview! What would you wish our readers?
Balance. Don’t forget to rest and recover, it has a great impact on your productivity, weight and overall health.
P. S. Katya answered frequently asked questions about health analysts’ job. If you have other questions feel free to ask in the comments section.