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May 16, 2017 | Tom Ballard

SymplyHealth’s first effort is a smoking cessation product launched in Turkey

SymplyHealth(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of articles spotlighting Northeast Tennessee entrepreneurs.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

“Everyone talks about healthcare costs, but not much is going on to reduce them,” Johnson City Entrepreneur John Cannon says.

So, the Northern Michigan native who moved to Northeast Tennessee in 1980 as a Texas Instruments employee has decided to do something about it in an important area – smoking cessation.

His latest undertaking is named Symply Health Inc. The start-up sublicensed what Cannon describes as a “clinically-proven smoking cessation product” developed by a Seattle-based company named 2Morrow. He has the exclusive license for the nation of Turkey, although he hopes to expand into other countries especially Eastern European countries.

The product, called “SmartQuitTM,” has a novel approach, one that plays into Cannon’s long-time strengths. It uses technology, specifically smartphones, to monitor a user’s success after the individual has gone through a nine-day training process.

“We’re teaching people how to let their cravings (for nicotine) go,” he says. “The whole approach uses a behavioral modification technique called Acceptance Commitment Therapy. We come in after the individual decides they want to change. Then, it’s the how.”

Cannon is a serial entrepreneur who spent nearly two decades in the corporate world, first with Texas Instruments (TI) and then with Ericsson. It was the TI connection that brought him to Johnson City. Subsequent roles included Chief Operating Officer of ZFx Inc., Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President of iPlenus and Email Ideas, Chief Technology Officer of Altogether Home/Rooms Alive, CEO of Mobile Makeover, and CEO of mHealth Technologies LLC.

“I’ve been involved with a number of software companies including one we sold successfully,” he says. “Symply Health allows me to combine my technology and healthcare experience and interests.”

Why Turkey?

Cannon explains that the focus on the country started about four years ago when an investor asked him to explore the Turkish marketplace for opportunities. The goal was to find best in class technologies that would help with chronic disease management.

“The country has socialized medicine,” he explains, adding that Turkey has made great strides in improving its healthcare system in the past 12 to 15 years. However, Turkey has always had a problem with tobacco use. Recent efforts to curb smoking have failed and in fact use of tobacco among younger people is up significantly…

According to published reports, the consumption of cigarettes and other tobacco products in the 13 to15 age group increased by 51 percent and 88 percent respectively in just three years compared to the previous decade.

“The Turkish government is exploring a license from us for the program for two to 10 million users,” Cannon says. The software is installed on servers in Istanbul and ready to go.

Why the “SmartQuitTM” approach?

Cannon explains that it starts with a novel way to handle cravings for nicotine and a proven success rate as high as 33 percent compared to the “cold turkey” way where sustained cessation is maybe one in 20.

“We’re teaching people how to let their cravings go,” he says. “We don’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do.”

Finally, Cannon notes that “these same (smoking cessation) techniques can help people deal with stress management, eating disorders and others areas of behavior change.”

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