As one of the sectors undergoing widespread change, Healthcare is a field into which many startups are moving. One of the chronic conditions that several of these fledgling firms are focusing on is diabetes.
According to the World Health Organisation, 347 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes. The main reason for the recent increase in the incidence of this chronic illness is obesity linked to a sedentary lifestyle. The total number of deaths due to diabetes are forecast to rise by 50% over the next ten years.
Type 2 diabetes – characterised by high blood sugar and insulin resistance or relative deficiency – is now the most widespread form: 90% of diabetics worldwide suffer from type 2. People with diabetes need to track their condition on a very regular basis and a number of startups are now working to develop new solutions to help people track their condition with user-friendly devices and highly customised health management apps.
Precisely-tailored solutions for diabetes management
Glooko, a startup on which L’Atelier reported in 2013, is one of these. The Glooko team took part in a Learning Expedition focusing on the theme of connected health, which was organised by L’Atelier in June in San Francisco. Attendees were able to meet players ranging from academic institutions such as the University of California, Berkeley to startups specialising in the field.
Glooko was founded in 2010 by Rick Altinger and Yogen Dalal. The company provides a means for patients to track their condition, which is designed for the patients themselves plus also doctors and insurance companies. The startup, which has already raised $28 million in funding, has developed a mobile app and cable, which diabetics can use to monitor their condition. The app and cable are compatible with over 30 glucose meters that are available on the market, enabling users to transfer the data on blood sugar and insulin levels collected by the glucose meter directly to their smartphone. To obtain more customised assistance, a user can enter all the data relevant to his/her food intake, and the app is also designed to handle data coming from wearables such as FitBit and apps such as Strava. In addition to receiving advice, the user can share information with his/her doctor, who can then track what is going on remotely and so ensure the patient is getting the best treatment. Glooko is currently being used by clinics and hospitals to log data on diabetes, the better to help patients, and might in the longer term be able to make recommendations in real time.
Meanwhile diabetes care is clearly a field of great interest as a number of young companies have already entered this market. One example is California-based iHealth, founded in 2010. This firm has developed connected glucose meters and a dedicated diabetes management app. The device enables easy transfer of data to the smartphone via a jack plug. The app provides tracking functionality and customised advice.
More recently there has been a lot of talk about the One Drop app, which raised $8 million in Series A funding in early June. Like the others, this application helps diabetes sufferers to keep a running log of their personal insulin levels, the effectiveness of their medication and what they ate recently, and to measure what types of activities are affecting their blood sugar on a daily basis. One Drop is looking to provide patients with more comprehensive information and will use the funds it has raised to launch its first physical product, widely expected to be a connected glucose meter. The startup claims that 60,000 people used its service during the five weeks after the firm’s launch in April.
A monitoring service to help patients manage their condition
In order to stay healthy people suffering from diabetes have to make up for the lack of insulin produced by their body through daily injections. Diabetes – and many other chronic illness which demand a great deal of monitoring on the part of the patient – imposes some severe limitations. This clearly encourages patients to try out new tracking solutions using mobile apps and new connected devices.
This is the goal of Austrian startup mySugr. The firm was founded in 2012 with a mission to make managing diabetes “suck less”, as co-founder Fredrik Debong puts it. He himself suffers from Type 1 diabetes. The service, which already boasts 250,000 registered users, employs gamification techniques to take the strain out of dealing with the illness: it sets daily goals, has a points system, and other action-oriented features. Everything possible is done to remove the strictly medical feel of the process.
This range of logging/tracking tools all appear to have the same objective: to provide an attractive solution that makes the illness more ‘manageable’ and easy to live with. ‟Why not treat a chronic illness such as diabetes using digital tools that are as simple as those we use every day?” asked Taylor Small, Senior Director for Sales at Glooko, during the Learning Expedition. These apps are booming, with the added plus that they do not necessarily have to use hardware made by the same company. For example, mySugr has also built an Optical Character Recognition app that allows users to pull into their smartphones data from existing (non-connected) blood monitors.