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What If A Doctor Could Prescribe Behavior Change?

Doctors have known for decades that, in order to prevent disease or its complications, they were going to have to get into people’s living rooms and convince them to change everyday behaviors that would very likely kill them. To that end, back in the early 90s, health institutions started trying to intervene largely via the cutting-edge technology that existed at the time: phone calls. At-risk populations were dialed-up and encouraged to take steps that could ward off heart disease, diabetes complications, lung cancer and other avoidable conditions that cause 75% of Americans to die prematurely.

As you can imagine, these calls largely flopped. A phone interaction led by a stranger who interrupts your dinner hour, no matter how well-intentioned, felt more like an intrusion than meaningful support.

The more we discover about behavioral science, the more naïve those calls seem in retrospect. Whether it’s for weight loss, smoking cessation, diabetes, or otherwise, the best research shows that meaningful behavior change outcomes require not just a process that follows validated protocols, but a combination of positive social support from peers, guidance from a trusted health professional, easy-to-digest information, a carefully orchestrated timeline, and rich, dynamic media. That’s hard to squeeze into a phone call.

And that’s what inspired my co-founders and me to start Omada Health. The world urgently needs better ways to bring landmark behavioral science interventions to the masses, and advancements in digital technology have finally enabled the necessary ingredients required to get real results.

That doesn’t make it easy. We quickly realized that we weren’t simply starting a company – we were pioneering a new type of medicine: digital programs that reliably and remotely deliver clinical outcomes. We’ve dubbed this new category digital therapeutics.

 

To be successful at pioneering this space, we must do three things right:

1. Build unbelievably good products.

The efficacy of our products is directly tied to the quality of the user experience, and our users have been trained by consumer web to expect the best. We aren’t competing with a doctor’s office to hold your interest - we’re competing with Facebook, and so our programs must be similarly delightful to use. In digital therapeutics, the consequences of bad design aren’t lost pageviews, they are lost opportunities to change someone’s life.

2. Earn clinical trust.

We must root our programs in the best behavioral science and publish regularly. Everything we do - or claim - must surpass the scrutiny of the most exacting peer-reviewed publications. In the clinical world, trust is earned, not given. We must be equal part designer, clinician, and academic.

3. Navigate healthcare’s maze.

Our commercialization pathways are complex, with many interdependent stakeholders, ranging from health plans to academic societies. This requires building a team of experts who not only understand the current complexity with real depth, but can simultaneously maintain a clear vision for how it could - and should - be.

Here’s the exciting news: our efforts are starting to pay off. Our first digital program,Prevent, helps the 1 out of 3 Americans with prediabetes lose weight and make the sort of changes needed to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes. Not only does Prevent delight our participants, but it delivers excellent weight loss outcomes, comparable or better to what you see in equivalent brick-and-mortar lifestyle change programs targeted toward diabetes prevention.

We’re also innovating how we charge. We stand by our programs so strongly that we’ve adopted an entirely performance-based pricing model. The cost to an enterprise partner for Prevent is directly tied to how well Prevent is working in their populations. And that’s the right thing to do: it forces us to tune all our energies on designing the most effective experience possible.

So it’s a very special time in Omada’s history. Our vision is being embraced by the medical community, employers, insurers, and most importantly, by our participants. And now, I’m happy to announce that we have new support by our side, by way of passionate collaborators at Andreessen Horowitz, who have just led our $23 million Series B. Kaiser Permanente Ventures has also joined the round, and our existing investors are doubling-down, including U.S. Venture Partners and The Vertical Group. This support, as intellectual as it is financial, enables us to kick things into the highest possible gear, which includes successfully guiding more than 10,000 people through Prevent by the end of 2014 and hundreds of thousands (millions) more in the years following.

Since these are always nice moments to reflect, let me take a moment to give a heartfelt thanks to our team, participants, enterprise clients, and investors, without whom we’d be nothing. And if anyone out there would like to explore building the future of healthcare with us, check out our jobs page. We’re hiring!

In ten years, I have no doubt that your doctor will recommend a digital program for your depression instead of, or in addition to, a pill. Your treatment for insomnia, kidney stones, or lower back pain might be centered around an iOS app. We can clearly see a future where a doctor’s prescription sends you to an immersive digital experience as often as it does to a pharmacy. And we’re building that future, today.

- Sean Duffy

CEO & Co-Founder