It’s difficult. I can truly enjoy technology. For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about tech, gadgets, phones, etc… But I’m very aware that it has a negative impact as well. For me it’s a two-sided issue; stress and limited enjoyment. The stress-factor because there is never true rest. When we have a minute to do nothing, we take out our phones and again our brains start processing all kinds of stuff. This impacts my body and possible symptoms. When building Nori, we are actively making people aware of this issue as well. Trying to get them to learn again how to truly relax without any screens. Also it’s about enjoyment. For me personally, I try to forget about my phone when something amazing happens. At a concert, a football game, or on holiday for example… I try to enjoy it by looking at it. Not looking at it through my phone, trying to make a video I will never watch again anyway.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Roeland Pater, the founder of Nori Health, and freelance digital marketing professional for several healthcare startups. He lives in The Netherlands. Before founding his own company, he helped skin cancer detection app SkinVision to grow to over a million users globally.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
I have been working as an entrepreneur for most of my life now. It’s what makes me happy. I love the feeling of constant challenges and growing something from nothing. Of course technology plays a big part in my life as well, as for almost anyone now. There is a love / hate relationship there. On one hand I depend on it and building companies with it — on the other hand it is a stress-factor and takes away true enjoyment sometimes.
As for my personal life, I have a great family and recently became a father, which is amazing. I’m also relatively healthy. Relatively, because I live with Crohn’s Disease which has an impact on every day of my life. And as stress is a very important factor in bowel diseases like that, the technology issue also rises here.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Years ago I found out that I was missing something in my professional life. That turned out to be social impact. I did not know until I started to work in healthcare and was seeing on a daily basis how we were changing people’s lives. They were so grateful with what we had built, and came to tell us every day. That changed the way I worked. Now, everything I do has to make a true impact. Either on society as a whole or on a personal level of an individual. This insight has changed everything; now, work is no longer just work, but it’s a cause.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
As a freelancer I’m working on multiple exciting things. I choose my projects carefully, as my line of work permits me to do so.. As every company is looking for growth I’m in a position to work with people and companies I really stand behind.
But the most exciting is my own startup Nori Health. We are building a chatbot coach for people with chronic bowel diseases like Crohn’s Disease, Colitis and IBS. A chatbot is a computer-driven conversational partner. A robot, yes. But Nori is carefully crafted and managed by humans. And because she is a computer, she is able to help millions at the same time. No doctor could do that.
By having regular conversations with Nori, patients can discuss every lifestyle factor that impacts the severity of symptoms. With the goal to discover lifestyle behavior that is making the disease worse, and of course to change that around.
We are working on this with a great team and it’s so exciting to hear enthusiastic responses from patients that hear about what we are doing. I cannot wait to launch the app publicly later this year.
Between work and personal life, the average adult spends nearly 11 hours looking at a screen per day. How does our increasing screen time affect our mental, physical, and emotional health?
It’s difficult. I can truly enjoy technology. For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about tech, gadgets, phones, etc… But I’m very aware that it has a negative impact as well. For me it’s a two-sided issue; stress and limited enjoyment. The stress-factor because there is never true rest. When we have a minute to do nothing, we take out our phones and again our brains start processing all kinds of stuff. This impacts my body and possible symptoms. When building Nori, we are actively making people aware of this issue as well. Trying to get them to learn again how to truly relax without any screens.
Also it’s about enjoyment. For me personally, I try to forget about my phone when something amazing happens. At a concert, a football game, or on holiday for example… I try to enjoy it by looking at it. Not looking at it through my phone, trying to make a video I will never watch again anyway.
Can you share your top five ways people can improve mental wellness and create a healthy relationship with technology?
– Take work email off your phone. Seriously, that helps.
– Take Facebook off your phone. Look at it when you are working on your laptop if you really need to, but stop doing it on your phone as well.
– Drop the push notifications. These are very stressful. When I install a new app, I always take these out first. I open the app when I want to, not when the app wants me to.
– As described above, stop taking photos and videos of everything. Truly enjoy the moment for once.
– Next to professional apps and apps for entertainment, focus on using your devices for things that can help increase your health and stress levels. There are so many great digital health tools out there to help with fitness, mental health, mindfulness, etc… try putting technology to work for you, instead of just draining you.
51% of Americans say they primarily use their smartphone for calls. With the number of robocalls increasing, what are ways people can limit interruptions from spam calls?
Personally I’m using silent mode for the first part of the day, and after dinner as well. I make calls during specific office hours. That helps to limit distractions. Also, a work phone you can leave at the office can help. Protect your personal number from becoming public and you’ll have way less issues with this.
Between social media distractions, messaging apps, and the fact that Americans receive 45.9 push notifications each day, Americans check their phones 80 times per day. How can people, especially younger generations, create a healthier relationship with social media?
As described previously, I would take down push notifications altogether. This is the main trigger to look at your phone all the time, and open certain apps just to see that someone has liked something. But I’m aware that for younger generations this might not be a viable option. They grew up with social media as integral part of their lives, as for me they appeared halfway through my life. For younger people, I’m seeing more and more parents introducing ‘silent periods’. So during breakfast, lunch and dinner for example no phones are allowed in sight. Things like that help.
Also the work/life balance is very important. With Nori we discuss this with patients as well. Really try to separate and keep screens at work. When you are at home, live your life instead of working your phone.
80% of smartphone users check their phones before they brush their teeth in the morning. What effect does starting the day this way have on people? Is there a better morning routine you suggest?
It’s not healthy, but also very logical to this. Not saying that I like it, but I do it myself as well. It’s the new way of waking up; we wake up, and our digital lives wake up too.
But I know that other ways feel much better. For example, during the weekends I take more time waking up… reading the newspaper, making a nice breakfast with some fruit, listening to some music. I want to incorporate this into my working day routine as well. Would be much healthier.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?
The most important thing is to do what you love. It’s such a waste to spend most of your time on things and you don’t really like. Especially for work, as we spend most of our lives on that. FInd something you truly believe in and if needed make sacrifices (like less money!) to get there. In the end you will be very grateful to yourself.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I really like the term ‘moonshot’ which is used in healthcare. My personal moonshot would be to end the difference in quality of life for people with a chronic disease, compared to healthy people.
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