Quit Genius allows employees to overcome their addictions 100 percent remotely

Quit Genius is the world's first digital clinic for treating nicotine, alcohol and opioid addictions.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco use causes more than eight million deaths globally each year. Moreover, the total global economic cost of smoking is more than $1.4 trillion (R19.69 trillion) a year, making smoking a major worldwide economic and public health concern.

Dr Ashish Mandavia, UK-qualified medical doctor and EMEA commercial director at Quit Genius, says smoking is still a leading cause of preventable and premature death worldwide, and is an important risk factor for serious health problems and life-threatening diseases.

Quit Genius is the first technology-enabled digital clinic for multiple addictions and allows employees and health plan members to access an evidence-based treatment programme 100 percent remotely. It has been designed to empower employers to help their employees quit their addictions. The programme focuses on tobacco, alcohol and opioids – the most common substances that employees are addicted to in workplaces today.

Ashish explains that Quit Genius was founded in 2015 in the UK by three doctors. “The doctors saw that patients would come in time and time again into hospitals, be treated for an exacerbation of their symptoms and would be sent home only to return again as they started smoking, drinking or taking drugs again,” he says. “The founders at Quit Genius came up with a way to bring about change in these lifestyle behaviours by looking at the principles of gamification.”

Quit Genius developed a digital app that gamifies the approach towards behaviour change, incentivising the user to take control of their own health.
In the US and South Africa, more and more employers are taking responsibility for helping and supporting the physical health and mental wellbeing of their employees. This is partly why Quit Genius has been so successful.

He says Quit Genius is continuing to expand into more addictions and markets. “We initially started by offering smoking cessation support but we have now launched our programme for alcohol addiction using the same principles and we will soon help people with opioids addictions as well.”

The key is to make digital support convenient to employees and overcome the stigma associated with mental health conditions and addiction.

“We know that addictions and substance abuse disorders account for reduced productivity and absenteeism and increased health care costs for employees, therefore there is a significant return on investments to investing in digital therapeutics,” Ashish notes.

Tobacco addiction in the workplace
He explains that addiction is multifaceted, with many contributing components. Genetics and environment can affect the likelihood of people developing an addiction, yet often they’re marginalised in society and in the workplace.

“We all know someone who can have a cigarette at a party or one drink at New Years and they will never become an alcoholic or addicted to smoking, but there are some people who are predisposed to developing an addiction.

“When these people are exposed to stresses and anxieties that can occur in the work environment, these addictions can surface and start to cause major issues for that employee.”

Tobacco is generally accepted in society, but Ashish says the stigma related to addiction as a whole still makes it hard for people to open up: “This is why a digital app in your pocket which doesn’t involve going to see a doctor or a psychologist in person works so well – it’s discreet, confidential and available 24/7 in your time of need.”

He goes on to say that addiction can lead to chronic health conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease and cancers and is associated with mental health conditions, including depression and increased risk of suicide.

It also affects the financial wellbeing of individuals and their families, which is why it is important for employers to find more ways to support their staff going through tobacco and alcohol addictions. “Early intervention reduces costs to employees, employers and saves lives.”

How Quit Genius Works
The Quit Genius programme offers over 100 interactive exercises to support an employee on their quitting journey. These exercises adapt to the employee’s triggers for smoking, therefore, delivering a personalised digital experience and increased chance of a successful quit attempt.

To support them during their quit attempt, employees receive unlimited one-to-one virtual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) delivered by a qualified South African smoking advisor via the in-app chat function (similar to WhatsApp) – there are no fixed appointment times, so they can message whenever they want.

Employees are provided with a portable carbon monoxide (CO) sensor to record the level of carbon monoxide on their breath after they have smoked. As someone quits smoking, the level drops – it’s a bit like watching the kilograms drop off if you were dieting and trying to lose weight. From the employer’s perspective, this gives you an actual chance to verify with confidence that the smoking cessation programme that they have commissioned is actually working.

Lastly, employees can manage their cravings with Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), in the form of gum and patches, which is delivered straight to their door – no need to head to a pharmacy, or a doctor – it’s convenient and easy for the employee.

Quit Genius is currently operational in the US, UK and in South Africa. Their coaches are located in Cape Town to deliver virtual CBT in several languages, including English, Xhosa and Zulu.

How to sign up for Quit Genius
Quit Genius works with Anglo American, the British listed mining company headquartered in Johannesburg and will start working with South Africa's largest health insurance provider later this year.

Currently, there are 750,000 users signed up on the app, which can be downloaded on the Apple or Android app stores and they have delivered 4:1 return on investment to their partners.

Employees gain access to Quit Genius at no cost, through their employer or health plan. At any time, they can confidentially register for a Quit Genius account and begin working with a qualified Quit Coach who will help them on their quitting journey to overcome their addiction.