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Startups set ambitious goals to prevent and treat diabetes

A group of entrepreneurs from technology and medicine recently launched a new virtual medical clinic with the goal of reversing type 2 diabetes in 100 million people by 2025. The startup, Virta, is an online specialty medical clinic that connects patients with diabetes with a care team that helps them make lifestyle changes to ultimately eliminate the need for diabetes medications. The service involves a physician, health coach, access to telehealth, text messaging, plus artificial intelligence and real-time measurement of vital signs like blood pressure and blood sugar through the app.

The team timed the announcement of the new company with the publication of a study two of the cofounders published in JMIR Diabetes. The study focused on whether individuals with type 2 diabetes participating in an intensive nutrition and behavioral counseling delivered remotely could improve outcomes. The study involved 238 participants who completed the first 10 weeks of the program. At the start of the study, most participants (90 percent) were on one or more diabetes medications. At the end of 10 weeks:

•The majority of the patients had one or more diabetes medications reduced or eliminated (57 percent).
•The average participant lost 7.2 percent of his or starting weight.
•The percentage of individuals with an HbA1c level of <6.5 percent increased from 20 percent to 56 percent.

The authors concluded that these initial results indicate that an individualized program delivered remotely can improve glycemic control and weight loss and decrease the need for medication in this population.

According to the CDC, one-in-three Americans could be diagnosed with diabetes by 2050. It is not surprising that many entrepreneurs in the technology and medical space are focused on preventing and treating diabetes. Another startup, Siren Care, has created “smart socks” equipped with temperature sensors to detect inflammation in patients with diabetes. Patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at risk for foot swelling and other issues that can lead to infection, and in serious cases, amputation. Early detection is vital to avoid serious complications. The sensors are woven into the fabric of the sock to detect when there is inflammation. All information is uploaded to a smartphone app that can alert patients to any issues. Rimidi, an Atlanta-based digital health company, is tackling the disease through its Diabetes + Me platform that offers diabetes management for patients and primary care clinicians. The program aims to identify gaps in care management and help patients track their blood glucose. The platform is a combination of remote-patient monitoring and clinical decision support capabilities.

Analysis: Deloitte’s 2016 Survey of US Health Care Consumers showed that 70 percent of consumers are likely to use at least one of the health technologies presented to them (which included telemedicine, remote patient monitoring/sensors, drones/robotics, and Internet of Things (IoT) technology that makes objects “smart” via embedded sensors and links them through wired and wireless networks). Across the board, consumers with chronic conditions are the most interested in using technology-enabled care. Those reporting a major impact from their condition report even greater interest.

(Source: Amy L. McKenzie, A novel intervention including individualized nutritional recommendations reduces hemoglobin A1c level, medication use, and weight in type 2 diabetes, JMIR Diabetes, March 7, 2017)

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Author bio

Doug leads Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Life Sciences and Health Care practice. With 24 years of experience, he works closely with multiple top health care organizations on major clinical and enterprise transformation efforts and on large-scale technology implementation projects. Doug has extensive experience in comprehensive quality and patient safety transformations, turnaround and performance improvement in academic medical centers as well as organization/workflow redesign and technology enablement. He has served as the lead on a number of enterprise transformation initiatives with some of Deloitte’s most largest and most complex clients.