A Need for Digital Coaching for Diabetes Management

Originally published on LinkedIn

When you live with a chronic condition, you learn to expect the unexpected. Specific to diabetes management, I've recognized there are certain variables I can control like diet and exercise whereas others that I can’t as well like stress and mood. It's a never ending rollercoaster. 

As diabetes management is complex and influenced by factors both in and outside of my control that could benefit from real-time support, the advent of digital health coaching has been an exciting development I'm following closely for the last couple of years.
While there are several ‘coaching’ tools on the marketplace today that support patients/consumers with achieving individual diet, exercise, sleep and general health and wellness goals, I’ve been surprised and disappointed by the lack of coaching programs that support patients/consumers with disease management. And with the solutions on the market, there seems to be a lesser focus on dmanagement and more around prevention.

The diabetes management focused programs I have come across like Livongo and WellDoc's BlueStar, while promising, both require a prescription to use. 
And on the prevention side, Omada is arguably the best known for its online coaching program for diabetes prevention. With nearly 86 million pre-diabetic adults in the US alone, many of which may also be at risk of heart disease, stroke, as well as onset of full-on diabetes, they’re focused on early intervention to improve health outcomes and ultimately prevent the onset of costly and chronic conditions.

While I fully support Omada’s model and most definitely see value in intervening and engaging with at-risk/pre-diabetics to help change behavior and avoid onset of diabetes, I would argue that prevention is not enough as the estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes has drastically increased over the last five years.

According to the American Diabetes Association, an average $13,700 is spent each year on individual patients with diabetes in the US. This translates to a total cost of care for patients diagnosed/living with diabetes at over $250 billion a year. Wow.


In my exhaustive search on coaching programs for diabetes (both digital and in-person), I came across an ambitious study led by the NHS called the Diabetes Digital Coach Test Bed that has brought together a diverse group of health stakeholders to experiment and evaluate different ‘innovative’ approaches and technologies to see what has the greatest impact on diabetes management. The study, setup as a longitudinal research effort, makes health coaches and different mobile self-management tools and connected monitoring devices available to Type 1 and Type 2 patients so they can ‘do the right thing at the right time’ to manage their diabetes. This is great!

As a patient living with Type 1 with an interest in digital coaching programs, I’m really excited about the NHS study’s aims and end results. We definitely need more evidence/support on coaching’s effectiveness, and also more insight on patient needs and preferences around digital coaching products and services so we can design and develop better solutions that deliver better health outcomes, as well as engage and excite. 

Read the full article on LinkedIn 


By: Ashley Boyd

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