CES – Let’s get on with it!

CES – Let’s get on with it!

As per usual this annual confab of the tech world is full of way cool whiz bang technology. Walking the show Diabetic Investor was struck by the fact of how many of these companies see blood glucose monitoring as an essential piece of technology even though the market for BGM is falling apart. We counted no less than 8 companies which were showing a glucose monitor that delivered readings to … wait for it … the cloud. It was also interesting not one of the current major branded players in BGM have a presence here.

Given this set of circumstances a few observations which may surprise some.

  1. Tech companies aren’t interested in the razor/razor blade business model. They see BGM as part of a comprehensive diabetes management system.
  2. Unfortunately like the old guard these newcomers still haven’t gotten beyond turning data into actionable information. Like the old guard they talk a pretty good game but still haven’t quite figured out to transform all this data into better patient outcomes.
  3. To Diabetic Investor is just a matter of time before all these newcomers start chipping away and taking share away from the old guard. A key reason will be tech companies are going to make an end run around the old guard and not become reliant on formulary position or adverse reimbursement policies. As we noted earlier this week these newcomers will bypass traditional distribution channels and deal directly with the patient.
  4. Whether it’s the old guard or newcomers no one has given much thought as to whether or not patients will become overwhelmed with all this data or even if they want all this attention. Again for this data to be truly transformational, for it to truly influence patient outcomes data must be transformed into an action plan that a patient understands.
  5. BGM is not the only diabetes device market that will be impacted, as insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitoring system and “smart” insulin pens will all play a role as we move closer to interconnected diabetes management (IDM) becoming the norm and not the exception.

It’s point number 5 which deserves further examination as the technology to make IDM a reality exists today. Yes improvements are needed but the question of whether or not IDM moves from a dream to reality has nothing to do with technology. The issue today is getting this technology into the mainstream and beyond the fringes of diabetes. This is not as easy as it may seem for as powerful a force IDM can be it will also be a very disruptive force. It’s not an overstatement to say that no area of diabetes will be untouched by IDM.

Take a look at all the players who will be impacted:

  1. Diabetes Drug and Device companies
  2. Payors
  3. Retail pharmacy chains such as Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid not to mention the world’s largest retailer Wal Mart
  4. Physicians
  5. Certified Diabetes Educators
  6. And let’s not forget the person who’s supposed to benefit from IDM – the patient.

All of these players have skin in the game and all have territories they want to protect. Does anyone seriously see physicians willingly giving up control of their patients with diabetes? Will this ultra-conservative bunch want some stranger giving their patients “advice” on how to better their diabetes management??

As we have noted in the past these barriers should fall by the wayside once we transition from a fee for service reimbursement model to an outcomes based model. Yet even when that day arrives in earnest Diabetic Investor senses the battles will not be over as each stakeholder will then want their fair share of the reimbursement pie. We further believe once this day arrives the fight will transition not to who has the best technology rather who can utilize this technology most effectively.

At the moment IDM with all its potential is still unchartered territory. The obstacles to wide spread adoption are not technical, the main obstacle is the existing healthcare infrastructure. An infrastructure which is resistant to change yet in desperate need of change. It will be interesting to see who drives this change, who will risk going against the grain, perhaps ruffle some feathers and prove that IDM is more than just whiz bang way cool technology and actually a valuable tool that helps patients better manage their diabetes.

With diabetes continuing to grow at epidemic rates, expanding beyond a healthcare but also economic crisis it’s about time we get on with it already.