Coffee with Omada Health’s Andrew DiMichele: The Future of Digital Health

Andrew DiMichele is a programmer turned health entrepreneur. After becoming one of the first non-founding employees of Lattice Engines, Andrew later went on to found Omada Health, a company using digital therapeutics and smart technology to develop effective behaviour change therapies. This week, we sat down with him to see what health technology has taught him and where he believes digital health is headed in the near future.
Tell us a little bit about Omada. What are some of your biggest milestones in your point of view? What challenges have you faced in developing the product and entering the health market?
More than a third of all U.S. adults have pre-diabetes, and without intervention, most of them will progress to type 2 diabetes, which is a very debilitating and expensive condition. But intervention is absolutely possible. The CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Plan (DPP) clinical trial showed that a dynamic behavior change program is highly effective at reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. So our first key milestone was building our own version of that program, and deploying it via a pilot. The results were great, proving that this was a compelling opportunity. The biggest challenge was building the actual prototype. Once that was built and so well received, we knew we were on the right track. We’ve been so pleased with the progress since.Taking even a quick glance at your background, it’s really easy to see that you’ve done some incredible things in technology. What led to your passion for health technology in particular?

I really enjoy treading new ground and doing something new. In the health care industry, people tend to be risk-averse – for good reason. Lives are on the line. But if you can introduce an innovative product that has the potential to make a big impact and works seamlessly within the system, it is very likely that you’ll find great success.

In the last decade, we’ve seen health IT grow exponentially. What do you think is the most prominent digital health trend in the last few years? And what do you think the most prominent will be in 2014?

There’s enormous momentum behind health technology right now and we’re on the upward swing of this trend. One challenge in this space is the HIPAA laws. Compliance on every level can be taxing, but they’ve started to regulate any vendor who handles health care data. This is great for digital health companies because now we have more vendors to choose from. As far as this year goes, there is going to be an even bigger uptick in optimism and investment going into digital health. Digital health will continue to be a pretty hot industry.

You’ve done a ton of work from the consumer or patient point of view. How have physicians responded to Omada?

Having a doctor recommend your product is a huge accomplishment. The responses we’ve been receiving so far are very promising. Physicians are telling us that they don’t have any tools to recommend to patients to cope with pre-diabetes. Prevent is something they can recommend that will directly address their condition.

What have you learned about patient engagement through Omada? You have a really interesting model for it; can you expand? What inspired you to go in this direction?

We have come to realize that group based programs do really well because of the peer accountability. Prevent matches each participant with a group of like-minded people who progress through the program together. They exchange tips and strategies, share challenges, and work together to meet group goals. The other piece of human accountability is the health coach, who provides authoritative guidance. Health coaches can pinpoint specific issues, and reach out to participants in the right way, at the right time, to keep them on track.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs who are entering health IT now?

The timing could not be better. Get into health tech now while we’re on the upswing. Regulation is still lighter than it will be in a couple years from now so there is a lot of opportunity there. Once regulation ramps up a bit, digital health is going to be much more challenging to implement. Another piece of advice I have is that it’s important to realize that healthcare is complex, so take some time to talk to people who are experienced in this industry. But don’t get intimidated. I really believe that real change in US healthcare has to come from within. The best business models will take something that’s really complex about healthcare and make it simple. But to do that, you need deep understanding. I think some of the most lucrative business opportunities lurk in the inner details of healthcare.

Are you a thought leader in digital health or do you know someone who is? Give me a shout at – I would love to chat!

This post was written by Yashvi Shah, Marketing Associate at SeamlessMD.

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