In the United States, diagnosed diabetes costs $327 billion each year. For the population of 30.3 million Americans who struggle with this chronic condition, maintaining controlled blood sugar levels is the easiest way to prevent complications. But “easiest” can be misleading. There are devices and medical supplies to worry about, frustrations with doctors and the hassle of recording readings.
Those challenges inspired Glooko’s Software-as-a-Service application and accompanying mobile app, which are designed to synchronize diabetes patients and their healthcare providers in the U.S. and beyond. The subscription-based diabetes management platform helps people understand how food, activity and medication affect blood glucose.
Glooko hopes its care management technology makes this uphill battle a little bit easier by helping healthcare professionals get the information they need and in turn, improving patient care. The company offers an integrated platform (agnostic of any particular device) that helps patients and clinicians make better and faster data-driven decisions that result in better outcomes that lower costs.
On the clinician side, Glooko integrates device data—glucose meters, fitness trackers, etc.—so healthcare providers (HCPs) can monitor and see patterns quickly. For patients, the app lets them see how their health is tracking and allows for broader patient monitoring and communications between the patient and clinician.
As Glooko continues to connect the diabetes ecosystem (they currently partner with health systems, device companies, and pharma companies—payers are the next frontier), the brand is looking ahead at opportunities to go beyond tracking and really advance patient care.
Glooko EVP Rick Altinger (right) shared his insights on a panel at SXSW 2018, “Using Digital Tools to Tackle Chronic Disease.” We caught up with him to learn more about how Glooko is changing the patient’s experience with diabetes and how it could change care for other chronic conditions.
Rick, we know that the management and care of chronic conditions like diabetes are very costly for our healthcare system. How much are you using Glooko to track outcomes for patients as well as the financial impact for HCPs?
First and foremost, we’re tracking the number of providers that actually use our product, on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. More than 7,000 provider sites are using us to make it easier and faster for them to manage patients with diabetes. From an outcomes perspective, we have a regular drumbeat of data.
Most recently, we put out some data associated with our mobile insulin dosing system where the mean glucose readings decreased significantly. For people with diabetes, it’s about controlling your blood glucose level, so if we can show that they improve after starting on Glooko then there’s a clear cause and effect there.
Diabetes is the poster child for digital health because it’s all about data. For 25 years now there have been wearable devices for diabetes that capture data. Relationships with the device companies are key because there is so much data locked in these devices that in the past were rarely accessed.
With this data, we are able to show the impact of everything from medications and exercise to diet and stress on glycemic control. Illuminating that data shows the patient areas of strengths, and areas where they can improve and live healthier.
You believe Glooko has “cracked the code” in terms of unifying and synthesizing diabetes management. Do you consider Glooko to be a disruptive brand—or a smart solution for the healthcare industry?
Personally, I strongly feel that it’s both. We are disruptive. We are changing the way that diabetes is managed on a global basis. We’ve helped over 1.5 million patients with diabetes and how they manage their care with clinicians.
At the same time, we are bringing intelligence and smarts to what already existed. There are individual device companies that had their own software, but we’re making it easier and bringing all of the data together in one place. Instead of a patient having to use software from Company A and Company B, if they use a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) from one company and a pump from another company, we bring that data together. The same benefit goes for the doctor with an added layer of intelligence.
Here’s an example. I’m a patient looking at my blood glucose data over the last three months. I go to see my doctor and instead of the physician having to study the data for a long period of time, our system uses algorithms and machine learning to come to a quick insight that, hey, the third Sunday of every month you have an increase. What’s happening on that Sunday that you might consider changing?
In our next phase, we want to get to the point where the system can actually tell someone how much insulin to take. We’ve just gotten clearance from the FDA to address this.
Do you think the Glooko system is applicable only to diabetes care? Or could your insights and services improve management of other chronic conditions?
It is absolutely applicable to other chronic conditions, particularly hypertension and cardiovascular disease that are often a comorbidity with diabetes, meaning, often they go together. Diabetes is a leading cause of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. But over $700 billion is spent per year globally for people with diabetes. And there’s over 30 million people in the U.S. with diabetes and another 70 million with pre-diabetes. So this is where we’re focusing our energy in the immediate future. I imagine that we’ll go into other chronic diseases, and hypertension and cardiovascular disease would be the first.
As a brand, Glooko has to appeal to consumers, as they’ll be using the products, and HCPs, who will need to examine the data and track their patients’ progress. In these early stages, which audience are you most focused on? And which audience will drive the greatest growth for you as the brand expands?
On our website we talk to five separate constituents: First and foremost, the patient. Then we have doctors and other healthcare professionals. In many ways, this group is key for us because they really develop trust with the patients. Next, we have the device companies—the device is an important part of the patient experience. Then we have pharmaceutical companies. Diabetes is a very pharmacological disease. If you take the right medication at the right time in the right dose, you can control your diabetes.
And diabetes is not the leading cause of blindness, amputations and kidney failure—poorly controlled diabetes is—and there’s a big difference. The last piece of the puzzle is the payers. We’re thrilled that payers are now giving attention to diabetes and recognizing that we need to be at the forefront of digital health solutions.
We talk to all those constituents in some way. The patient is #1- but the reality is that when they manage their diabetes, they have to deal with all four entities, and it’s challenging. So we try to simplify that for them. While the Glooko brand is important, what’s more important to us is that we help those four constituents deliver an overall experience that results in better outcomes at lower cost.
As an example, a little over a year ago we announced a partnership with Novo Nordisk, the largest pharmaceutical company in diabetes, and we created a branded app for them. If you look closely, the app says “powered by Glooko” but in essence it sits under the Novo Nordisk care system. A lot of patients who are using the app won’t notice Glooko, and we’re okay with that.
What’s your biggest challenge to getting Glooko to the next level?
We still have a lot of untapped growth with the health systems and other partners. I think the payers, because they touch so much of the population, can potentially be one of our largest growth engines. I think we are well-positioned to provide them with a tool that makes the link from the care management group to the actual patient and the provider. We have an advantage because we’re already in a number of offices and being used by many patients. Our distribution is already in place, and now it’s just a matter of the best relationship we can create that will create this benefit for patients. I think that the potential is tremendous.
With any type of care management program, the challenge is always engagement, reaching out, helping to create understanding and trying to make it as easy as possible for that patient to be able to engage. That’s time-consuming. To a degree, when you start doing things like that, you’re really in that area of remote patient monitoring, which is in its infancy.
There have to be incentives for the payers, for the providers and for the patients. So once we have all those aligned, we’re going to be able to make the progress that we think is out there. Those things take a lot of time. You’re changing the way things have been done. You’re really changing the standard of care.
Another challenge is data protection. Keeping data secure and complying with regulations is of utmost importance. We’re investing in these protections so our constituents don’t have to. I get frustrated when people ask me, does Glooko own the data? To me, that’s the wrong question.
The patient is the only entity that owns the data. It’s his or her data. Beyond that, it’s just a matter of what rights you have. We need all four constituents—health systems, payers, device companies, and pharma companies—to act in support of the patient.
No one group can monopolize or withhold the data, nor should it be able to. If a patient shares data via a device, and the device company shares it with a health system, and insurance paid for it, no one has exclusive rights to that information. The monolithic health system view of things doesn’t work anymore.
Also, everyone talks a big game about owning the data, but the fact is, most people don’t do much with it. We’re not backing down from this. It’s the patient’s data, and everything we’re doing is focused on the patient getting better, from improved personal outcomes to better diabetes education.