Did Parent Hackers Trip Diabetes Management Innovation Race?

Did parent hackers start the race toward a better way to monitor and manage diabetes?  Dexcom, Insulet, Glooko, and Apple are among the companies following their lead.

Where’s the Innovation?

Medical technology, pharmaceutical, and computer technology companies are driving innovation in health care and tech and dominated, the Forbes Most Innovative Growth Companies list. Prominent in innovation in health tech are rapidly evolving solutions to combatting the skyrocketing global cost of diabetes.

  • The global cost of diabetes is now $825 billion per year.
  • The global incidence of diabetes has nearly quadrupled over the past 30 years.
  • In the United States alone, diabetes patients spend an average of $6000 annually to treat their disease. That total does not include the costs of frequent complications from the disease.
  • One in ten Americans has diabetes and an estimated one in three will have the disease by 2050 if present trends continue.

With the global human and economic epidemic looms, rapid-fire innovation, collaboration, investment, and partnerships are transforming diabetes management. From mobile solutions to glucose monitoring and insulin delivery to data analytics as a service for patients, payers, and providers; the race is on to improve diabetes management and decrease the costs of diabetes care.

Think Big, Act Fast

Number two on Forbes list of the most innovative growth companies, San Diego based medical device maker Dexcom, launched the first completely mobile, real-time glucose monitoring system in 2015. It is currently the only continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) FDA approved to allow diabetes treatment decisions without a finger stick.  While it requires twice daily finger sticks to calibrate, additional finger sticks to measure blood glucose levels are replaced by real time measurements sent to a smart phone. A new partnership with Ascensia Diabetes Care has secured Medicare coverage for the system. The company is expected to link their sensors to the Apple watch. However, the race is ‘on’ as Apple is reportedly developing its own glucose monitoring system.

On Dexcoms’ commitment to innovation, President and CEO Kevin Sayer credits a laser focus on patient problems, deep expertise in a broad range of technologies and partnerships with outside firms that broaden its technology expertise further and challenge internal processes. The company does not accept ‘incremental product improvements’ and instead is willing to innovate at any point, quickly integrating improvements.

Robust and Simplified Solutions for Patients

Massachusetts-based medical device company Insulet Corporation develops, manufactures and distributes the only tubeless insulin management system. Users wear a small pod with a built-in insulin reservoir and wirelessly manage their insulin delivery with a hand held personal diabetes manager device. The company presented data on Horizon, which works in conjunction with the OmniPod to calculate and deliver appropriate insulin dosage at the International Conference on Advanced Technologies and Treatments for Diabetes and at the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 77th Scientific Sessions.  Currently, Medtronic is the only company with FDA approval for an ‘artificial pancreas’. Horizon would compete with Medtronic and offer the added convenience of a tubeless system.


Software-as-a-Service startup Glooko was founded in 2011 in Palo Alto by founders impacted personally by diabetes  who set out to improve the lives of people with diabetes. It offers a patient mobile app, a provider population management app and a hardware device that delivers insights and allows patients to upload data from their blood glucose meters. Glooko analytics unites blood glucose, diet, fitness, biometrics, insulin, medication data on their platform. In addition, the platform is ‘device agnostic’ and has raised $71 Million including investments from Medtronic, Insulet and Mayo Clinic.

Glooko recently partnered with Novo Nordisk on a joint diabetes management app that syncs blood glucose and activity data from a range of devices and fitness trackers. The app helps patients understand factors that affect glucose levels.  Novo Nordisks’ Digital Health Platform was developed in collaboration with IBM Watson.

Parents Hacking CGM Data

A few years ago, some tech-savvy parents of children with type 1 diabetes, desperate for a better way to monitor glucose levels started the race toward an artificial pancreas. They did an end run around the FDA and fashioned their own cloud-based solution. Called the Nightscout project, the volunteer developed, maintained, and supported project was the first to allow parents to monitor their child’s glucose level on their phones. Connected  by a facebook group,  these citizen hackers access data from commercially available glucose sensors.


In the few years since parents got tired of waiting for an FDA approved device to help them monitor their children with type I diabetes, medical technology has made amazing progress toward more effective and efficient management of the disease. Today, technology, partnerships, a laser-focus on patients, and an unrelenting willingness to innovate and compete are transforming the management one of healthcare’s most costly diseases. Innovation will undoubtedly drive more investment, acquisitions, mergers in the coming year.

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Coming Up on Lodescore®

10th Joint Meeting of Paediatric Endocrinology 2017 September 14 – 17 Washington, DC
17th Annual Diabetes Technology Meeting 2017 November 2 – 4 North Bethesda

Rock Health Summit 2017 September 1 San Francisco
Big Data Innovation Summit 2017 September 7 – 8 Boston

Accountable Care Organization (ACO) & Payer Leadership Summit Fall 2017 September 14 -15 Pasadena
Health IT Leadership Summit 2017 November 7 Atlanta

Medical Technology
10th Annual Medical Technology Executive Forum 2017 September 15 Palo Alto
AdvaMed 2017 September 25 – 27 San Jose

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