There’s an oft-heard story in digital health circles: A patient comes into the doctor’s office complaining of common pre-diabetic symptoms, so the doctor — who has no treatment code for “pre-diabetes” — tells the patient, “Come back when you have diabetes.”
And the patient often does come back with diabetes.
According to Omada Health, a virtual therapy company that targets people just like the man who came into the doctor’s office, one in three Americans has pre-diabetes. Without intervention, up to 70 percent will progress to type 2 diabetes.
Omada’s flagship product, called Prevent, gives caregivers a platform for getting the patient’s blood sugar and body weight under control.
In a conversation with VentureBeat, Omada CEO Sean Duffy says the program is “high touch,” providing support and coaching on a daily basis. The program lasts 6 months. One of the goals of the program is to help patients lose 7 percent of their body weight.
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Omada organizes patients in groups of twelve people who have similar demographics and coaches them together. The group can see each other’s progress displayed on a scoreboard. Viewers can see a small round picture of the participant, and a progress bar displays the participant’s progress toward the 7 percent weight loss goal. A group member’s actual weight in pounds is never shown.
A live coach is assigned to each group of twelve to offer help when needed.
Duffy says all of the tools and approaches in Prevent are backed by clinical research and are proven to work. Even the peer-pressure aspect in the group setting is supported by science; when members of team can see each other’s progress toward a goal, it spurs them on to do better.
The platform is sold to health care providers for use with patients with specific illnesses, like pre-diabetes. I asked Duffy why his company doesn’t skip the medical director pitches and long sales cycles and sell the platform, which is great for team weight loss, directly to consumers.
Duffy isn’t interested. He explains that selling to consumers would mean a high price point for users, who would be paying for it without the help of insurance. Duffy explains that lower-income people need the Omada platform most, and they would be cut off from it.
That’s what feels good about Omada. It’s one of the companies in the digital health space that’s picked out a specific population that’s costing the system billions and is trying offer a solution. And by the looks of Omada’s office in San Francisco, the company isn’t short of customers.
And there are more problem populations to focus on. Duffy says his team has been busy developing those programs.
Omada is backed by Kaiser Ventures, The Vertical Group, Kaiser Permanente Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and US Venture Partners.