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The Diabetes Monster tamed, a bit more

Updated: Apr 11, 2022

Living well with diabetes is possible if you learn from your body. Therefore, the very basis of living well with diabetes is data. Because therapy can be optimised with data. Diabetes data, however, can be inconvenient to collect, hard to analyse, and often downright overwhelming. Think of the diabetes notebooks that patients use to track their food and sugar levels. That's not the most convenient experience. It is not easy to collect data nor to extract insights from it. But for people with diabetes, good glucose control is essential in avoiding or reducing the severity of infection. Also, people with diabetes rely very much on doctors and diabetes educators for help, but can’t see them often enough, or for long enough, to get the help they need.

That's where mySugr App comes in. With more than 3 million registered users worldwide, the mySugr app eases the complexity of the daily diabetes routine with data, motivation and detailed reports.

The beginning

Founded in 2012, mySugr is a digital health company aiming to simplify life with diabetes. It offers people with diabetes the tools, know-how, and confidence to ease their daily diabetes routine complexity. mySugr is a top companion to monitor and manage your diabetes with all relevant information stored on your smartphone and ready to use. Stay in charge of your health, manage your insulin intake, and take control of your diabetes every day. In short, mySugr app aims to make diabetes suck less by creating a better health experience. The application has over 3 million registered users in 79 countries worldwide and continues to grow. But it does more than merely creating better experiences. Because better experiences create better engagement: retrospective studies indicate that mySugr lowers the risk of severe hypoglycemic events (LBGI) and shows a positive effect on the estimated HbA1c and the risk for hyperglycemic excursions (HBGI). (most text via mySugr)

Bought by pharma

In 2017, pharmaceutical company Roche, who already owned small equity through the Roche Venture Fund, bought all shares of the mySugr app. The mySugr company became an integral part of Roche’s new patient-centred digital health services in diabetes care. Roche and mySugr complement each other’s strengths. Roche offers profound expertise, global reach and the ability to continue investment opportunities. mySugr has the most downloaded and well-liked app for diabetes management. Together, they offer a more comprehensive care offering and digitalisation approach. Like rock and roll, zig and zag, salt and pepper, true success is when both parties bring out the best in each other. Together, the diabetes solution became an indispensable companion for a hassle-free diabetes experience in life. (text via Roche)

Integrated into the patient pathway

In September 2020, Pharma giant Roche added this remote-patient-monitoring tool to its Diabetes Care Platform. Although mySugr is targeted explicitly towards patients, these patients require many doctor-patient interactions. Through this integration, doctors and care team members can enrol their patients in the remote-monitoring program and then personalise the tool for each patient. Specifically, clinicians can control the length of the program, the frequency of data uploaded, and the hyperglycemia trend or standard deviation.

Now, a patient can use mySugr to share diabetes data with their doctor, who uses the RocheDiabetes Care Platform. This secure online diabetes management system allows the healthcare team to support patients with even more ways to optimise diabetes therapy. The new system can alert clinicians if there are irregularities in the patient's data or in the trends over time. Doctors can use the platform to send secure messages if there is an issue. If an irregularity is spotted, a healthcare professional can reach out and directly communicate adjustments to the treatment plan. (text via mobihealthnews)

More integration to improve the health experience even more

After the Swiss pharma giant Roche signed a collaboration deal with the diabetes company Novo Nordisk in 2019, Roche's diabetes management app mySugr's Logbook is now integrating with Novo Nordisk's connected insulin pens: the NovoPen 6 and NovoPen Echo Plus. Patients will connect the mySugr Logbook to their smart-pen device to create more data set and reports with more insights. According to the companies, the goal is to share more insights with healthcare providers to guide disease management. Connecting the Novo Nordisk smart insulin pens with the mySugr app marks yet a vital step for Roche (and Novo Nordisk) to offer a truly open ecosystem that will create even better health experiences. (text via mobihealthnews)

Diabetes care of the future

To create the highest possible value for people with diabetes, it remains crucial to combine and integrate many different disciplines of craft and science (medical devices, mobile apps, delivery of physical goods, human coaches, big data analytics, psychology, diabetology…), venture deeply into new technologies (closed-loop, machine learning, …) and deliver the result through a clear and empowering user experience. To get there faster, mySugr app always believed in partnering with the best in the field and tried to get as many people and organisations as possible involved. (text via mySugr app)

The Healthusiasm take >> In my personal take on this, the mySugr app changes the health experience through different layers, a method also used by popular running apps :

While there are many different theories around installing behavioural change, one popular approach is structured around four pillars: the Me Layer, the Tracking, the Info Layer, and the We Layer. If you use running apps frequently, you will recognise the layers in the services offered by these tools. The running app provides a personalised running plan, taking into account your history, availability and ambition (=Me Layer). Each run is recorded and archived in the app (=Tracking). It provides personalised alerts about your achievements and subsequent challenges, as well as offering related articles (=Info Layer). Finally, all this is shared with your friends or fellow runners on social media or within the community of the app itself (=We Layer). Perhaps this We Layer offers people who affirm your identity. Maybe they are fellow runners you want to compete against. Maybe it provides a topic of conversation when you meet in real life. Whatever the case, the app functions as social pressure or recognition for achieving your goals. The people in this “We Layer” are in fact, the “digital consumers” of your running activities and (also) help install and maintain your running behaviour. (text from the book: Healthusiasm)

  1. Me layer: With the intuitive home screen, you have an overview of the personal information about your journey: you can see where you’ve been—with blood sugar averages, hypers, hypos, carbs and activity—and where you’re heading with the estimated HbA1c.

  2. Tracking: To facilitate the collection of your data, glucometer meters can wirelessly transfer your blood sugar results to mySugr for monitoring. The mySugr app can also be connected to the RocheDiabetes Care Platform account to share results with your doctor in real-time (and skip the meter download at your next appointment)!

  3. Info layer: Get a personalised experience with tailor-made reminders and notifications. It's your style, your app, your diabetes therapy. Customise tags and reminders to personalise how you view and interact with mySugr. You can make it unique to your needs.

  4. We layer: Easily reach out to your network to feel supported by them. Secure, reliable data sharing means less hassle and more meaningful insights for you and your healthcare team, supporting better therapy outcomes.

While mySugr indeed managed to create an engaging health experience that many can learn from, also (other) pharma companies can learn from the way Roche approached this collaboration:

  1. Roche was very early involved in a star solution like mySugr.

  2. They were not afraid to go all in and buy up the company before others could.

  3. Even after the acquisition, mySugr did remain a company operating independently.

  4. The mySugr business model needed to be viable on its own. The ROI of the collaboration was not calculated on what it could mean to the current business model of the pharmaceutical company.

  5. While already being a powerful patient interface, Roche took its time to integrate it with its doctor-solution Diabetes Care Platform, even though the complementarity of both solutions must have been evident from the beginning.

  6. The company understood that health experiences are instead made with an ecosystem than by a single large organisation. The recent collaboration with the popular smart pen by Novo Nordisk is a fantastic example of how good health experiences are more important than the business focus of the (parent) company. Likely, this collaboration would have been complicated if mySugr app would not have been operating independently with a specific viable business model.

In my opinion, the Roche global approach with mySugr is a leading example for pharma. Not only for the headquarters of pharma companies but also each branch in the different countries. Even smaller subsidiaries can also learn from this to set up successful partnerships with start-ups in their own country.



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