Livongo: A Connected Health Solution for Managing Diabetes where Patient and Payers Win
By Tammy Sachs, CEO
For years, I’ve read articles and heard doctors talk about the challenge of adherence among people with Type 2 diabetes. When interviewing patients, they express hurt and frustration. “You brought it upon yourself” is the message they often receive. They are told to eat less, take their meds and exercise. Easier said than done.
My fascination with the power of behavioral change and connected health led me to interview Tullman. Here is what I learned about how and why Livongo works:
- Payers (often big insurance companies and self-insured employers like Target) cover the cost of smart meters and strips – two expenses often absorbed in part or whole by patients
- The meters give helpful messages, for example: “your numbers are high, have a glass of water, try walking around the block and test again.”
- Wi-Fi enables escalation to a loved one in the event of a life-threatening episode
- It knows when strips run out and sends new ones automatically
- Certified diabetes coaches can be called 24/7 for support in English & Spanish
There is a metric for every aspect of the system so payers know what they are saving. Adherence levels of up to 70% make the free meters and strips a good investment.
Livongo’s belief is that people using the system spend less time managing their disease and more time enjoying life. When they feel better and in control, depression, obesity and other co-morbidities are measurably reduced.
Here is how Tullman (who calls his customers “health consumers” and has experienced Type 1 and 2 diabetes in his family) explains the landscape: “There are 30 million people with diabetes. And they have diabetes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The idea that they can check with their physician every time they need help, that doesn’t scale… But imagine in healthcare, if you could get real-time information, how much time we could save. And you layer on top of that real access, real scheduling, real time feedback loops, and personalized health. And all that’s coming and it’s coming very rapidly. But unfortunately that’s not enough… We have an industry that’s fundamentally run out of money. And that’s what’s really fascinating because people who a few years back wouldn’t try things are being told, ‘figure out a better way because we simply have no more money.’”
Steven Krein, CEO of Startup Health, with well over 100 HIT (healthcare IT) companies in its portfolio, sees enormous opportunities for innovation and disruption as well. Despite an industry renown for resisting change and mired with regulation, companies who provide smart solutions that address costly pain points can succeed.
His logic mirrors Tullman’s. In a system that is broken and too costly to maintain, solutions will emerge that benefit consumers, employers and insurers.
As someone who believes fiercely in the ROI of good customer experience, listening to Tullman gives me hope that innovation will triumph over the status quo. He talks about how his consumers’ input helped refine the product (larger type, backlit, an easy to use supply kit) for a user base often over 50 with diabetic neuropathy and compromised eye sight.
LIvongo’s story, well described by Bill Saporito of Inc. Magazine, is a harbinger of what HIT disruption will unleash. I can’t help but get excited about what the near future holds in tackling behavioral change through solutions that connect people and technology!