Last December, Omada Health raised $800K in seed funding from a host of angel and venture investors, including NEA, Aberdare, Kapor Capital, TriplePoint Ventures and Esther Dyson — to name a few. A graduate of Rock Health’s first batch, the startup started out on a mission to take on diabetes (and prediabetes) by leveraging the latest research, design, behavioral science and digital technology.
Today, after nearly a year in development and testing, Omada Health is launching Prevent, what the company is calling the “first-ever online diabetes prevention program for the general public.” Why? Because Diabetes is one of the most widespread diseases in the U.S., with the CDC estimating that 79 million American adults have prediabetes. That’s one in three adults, and the majority of them people aren’t aware of their condition, as they have blood glucose levels that aren’t irregular enough to be considered diabetes yet indicate an extremely high risk.
According to Omada Health co-founder and CEO Sean Duffy, the CDC has begun to allocate greater resources to what it considers to be a “national epidemic,” rolling out diabetes prevention programs in community centers across the country, for example. However, a recent National Institutes of Health-sponsored study called the “Diabetes Prevention Program” showed that a comprehensive behavioral weight loss program can help lower the development of diabetes without relying on medication.
Prevent, the company’s flagship product, aims to complement the CDC’s on-the-ground prevention efforts by creating an “online version of the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) for the general public,” Duffy says. The DPP was successful in showing that diabetes can be prevented, the CEO continued, but it was a behavior change program (rather than drug) and was thus challenging and expensive to roll out. So, the startup created its new program to make diabetes prevention available online and accessible to as many people as possible.
The 16-week program leverages an interactive, web-based curriculum, digital tracking tools, coaching and social support to encourage people at risk to create healthier behaviors. After joining the program, users are mailed a “welcome kit” that includes a mobile-connected wireless scale and pedometer, which track progress without the need for any setup. Users are matched with a coach and a group of peers that facilitate support and positive reinforcement and are then guided through 16 lessons based on the DPP’s clinical trial curriculum.
Along the way, Omada mails additional packages to complement the curriculum and keep them on track. According to Duffy, the startup’s pilot study resulted in an average weight loss of 13.7 pounds after 16 weeks.
Along with making a scientifically-validated program available to the general public online, Omada is currently in the process of creating pilots and negotiating partnerships with third-party payers, like integrated health systems, private insurers and self-funded employers to cover the cost of the program for their employees and customers in the hopes of avoiding added health costs.
This is especially relevant, as a recent UnitedHealth report showed that diabetes is one of the biggest contributors to healthcare costs in the U.S., with diabetes and prediabetes spending reaching $200 billion this year. (A number that is expected to grow to $500 billion by 2020.) The startup hopes that, in line with a complementary study by the Urban Institute, a comprehensive behavioral change program could help the U.S. save up to $191 billion over the next decade.
“Evidence-based programs like Prevent can help equip doctors with the tools they need to combat the soaring diabetes epidemic in our country,” said Director of the USC Clinical Diabetes Program, Dr. Anne Peters, as lifestyle interventions have traditionally been difficult to “prescribe” and primary care physicians tend not to recognize or treat prediabetes — instead only stepping in once it has progressed into full-blown diabetes.
Duffy also added that Obamacare — President Obama’s Affordable Care Act — has helped bring attention to the skyrocketing rate of diabetes in the U.S. by laying the groundwork for a national prevention coalition. A bill recently introduced to the senate would allow DPP programs to be covered by Medicare, including Prevent, potentially bringing coverage to millions of Americans currently suffering from the disease.
Prevent is available to anyone diagnosed with prediabetes or is at high risk for type 2 diabetes. The program includes a 2-week free trial, after which it is available for a membership fee of $120/month. After the 16 weeks, the price drops to $12/month.