Health Coach Spotlight: Q&A with Omada Coach Bailey Peterka
Omada health coaches are a foundational part of our program. As part of our Health Coach Spotlight series, we recently sat down with Omada coach, Bailey Peterka, a certified diabetes educator (CDE) and a registered dietitian. Bailey shared her thoughts on digital health, the differences between an in-person vs. digital setting and the tools Omada provides its participants.
Q: Tell us about your career in diabetes education and care. Why did you decide to focus your career in this particular area?
I’ve been a registered dietician for 10 years. I began my career at a clinic that had a large diabetes population. While I didn’t initially intend on going into diabetes education, I naturally got a lot of hands on experience at this particular clinic. I started training to become a CDE, so I could focus specifically on this patient population.
In time, I realized I could really help foster positive change in people with diabetes. More often than not, people battling diabetes don’t realize how bad they’re feeling until they get the right care. For example, they’ll come to the doctor’s office with a blood sugar reading that is through the roof. A CDE can help them understand the correlation between being tired all the time or going to the bathroom often at night. They may not have even realized they had diabetes. As a CDE, it’s encouraging to see the more I work with my participants, the better they begin to feel. Their transformation is truly inspiring.
Q: What intrigued you about Omada and the digital health industry as a whole??
Digital is just such a different platform compared to the traditional healthcare setting. In the clinic, I would see a diabetes patient once a month at most. That’s a wide time frame between visits. Omada closes the gaps in care by offering frequent touchpoints. Participants can message their coach in the convenience of their own home and on their own schedule.
For example, my participants will message me and say, “I’m going on vacation next week, what can I do to plan ahead?”, or “I’m facing a challenging situation at work with office gatherings centered around food, what’s your advice?” Omada coaches can really work with participants on an individual basis to address their needs in between visits to their doctors. Diabetes can be very overwhelming. My message to our participants is always to pick one element and start there. From there, we work together to put the pieces together and drive meaningful outcomes.
Q: What is the most beneficial tool Omada provides its participants?
I always tell our participants to use the tools that feel most useful to their needs. Whether that tool may be Omada’s weight scale, food tracker, activity monitor or connected glucose monitor; the benefits and prioritization really vary from person to person. When I worked in the clinical setting, our diabetes patients would bring their glucose log and food logs to appointments but it would contain a months’ worth of data due to infrequencies in appointments. For a CDE, it can be really hard to give valuable feedback in that setting. At Omada, we’re able to track patient data in real-time, which allows our coaches to provide feedback right away. For example, if I notice a high blood sugar reading in one of my participants, I can work with the participant to tie it back to what they ate that day or if they forgot to take their medications. From there, I can begin to connect the dots proactively and provide in-the-moment care.
Q: Omada recently announced a milestone partnership with Abbott and their world-leading glucose sensing technology. How will the addition of Abbott’s continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) change participant care?
We’re really excited about this. CGMs are going to be the future of glucose monitoring. CGMs offer much more information and are typically more comfortable for the participant to use because they don’t have to frequently poke their finger. The traditional finger sticks are one of the main barriers to monitoring glucose for diabetes patients. Newly diagnosed patients are often nervous about poking a needle in their finger, and long-time patients are burnt out on the finger stick model.
Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre CGM reads glucose levels through a sensor that can be worn on the back of a patient’s upper arm, eliminating the need for finger sticks. The app synced with the device shows patients a graph of their glucose over the previous eight hours, and patients can also get a detailed chart of their information online through the integration with Omada. It’s very analogous to a picture versus a movie. When you poke your finger and get a blood sugar sample, you’ll get a snapshot of your blood glucose levels. But when you use a CGM, it provides a continuous, moving picture of your blood glucose data. We believe that this approach can really help patients and us coaches identify the problem areas and provide meaningful care.
Q: Talk about Omada’s unique approach to technology and integration, while also keeping a human focus to its model. This differs from other digital health platforms. What is the impact you’ve seen as a coach?
Health apps are quickly growing. There are apps that track your food, steps calories, and blood sugar readings. At Omada, our technology puts this all together in one place. It’s not just nutrition, exercise or glucose monitoring – it’s all of it. And, as coaches, we’re able to tailor these tools to each participant’s needs. Managing diabetes can be a daunting task and having a live person (as opposed to an app) for participants to talk to provides an enormous support system. It’s much easier to express feelings and concerns to a real person. Our human-centered coaching really helps participants feel like they don’t have to deal with everything at once. Our role as coaches is to create an actionable roadmap for participants and offer the timely support they need.