Why focus on people with diabetes when designing a solution for them?

By Manny Hernandez – SVP, Culture and Learning

The title of this post may sound silly. I mean: who in their right mind wouldn’t consider people with diabetes when designing a solution for them? The answer may surprise you, because many modern diabetes solutions out there (and most long-standing diabetes solutions) were conceived primarily with the clinician in mind, largely overlooking the needs and realities of the people living with diabetes. The result can be applications that resort to obscure terminology, charts that only doctors can understand, and the use of words like “non-compliant” that lays all blame on the person with diabetes.

Let me be clear: our physicians and other health care providers in our lives are key to our health. However, the environment in which they historically operated was focused on acute care: fixing broken bones, closing wounds, healing infections, etc. In those circumstances, you’d go to the doc and you’d get better over time. Our world today is very different, and chronic conditions are among the most common health problems. We are talking about diabetes, hypertension, depression, etc. conditions for which there is no actual “fix” or cure. And that makes all the difference in the world, because life with a chronic condition is lived out there in the world every single day, not at the physician’s office.

This is particularly relevant in November, when we celebrate Diabetes Awareness Month, and on November 14, World Diabetes Day. This day we honor the birth of Frederick Banting, the Canadian physician who co-discovered insulin, and the day is symbolized by a blue circle. A few years ago, before joining Livongo, I borrowed this circle to help illustrate why a focus on people with diabetes is the best way to empower them to live better and healthier lives. I took the circle and cut a little slice off of it, as you can see below:

If the whole circle represents the minutes in the life of a person with diabetes in the course of a year, the little slice typically represents the amount of time that we are interacting with the health care system (at a doctor’s appointment, getting blood work done, picking up prescriptions in the pharmacy, etc.) This slice represents less than 0.1% of our year… if you care about the math, you can read about it here. Therefore, to empower people with diabetes, it follows that the solutions we design for them need to have them at the center, not as an afterthought.

And that is what we do at Livongo. The Livongo program seeks to tackle the hassles impacting the life of people with diabetes. Two examples of this are unlimited strips delivered to your doorstep, so you can check as much as you need without ever running out of supplies; and automatically uploading every blood glucose reading, so keeping a manual blood glucose log becomes a thing of the past.

Our members and their experience drive what we do and how we think at Livongo. We are so passionate about this, that the first of the values in our culture is People. We put our members first! We believe that is the only way we can fix health care, and some of the results we are seeing seem to point in the right direction.