When Jeff Dachis was diagnosed with Type I diabetes four years ago, he remembers leaving the doctor’s office with a sinking feeling in his chest.
“I had about six minutes with a nurse practitioner and was given an insulin pen and a prescription and a pat on the back – and I was out the door,” he told Drug Delivery Business News. “I was concerned for my family, I was concerned for my kids. I didn’t really know what this was going to mean for me.”
He found himself searching for devices or products to help him manage his diabetes. From counting carbohydrates to calculating insulin doses, diabetes is a data-driven disease.
“It’s really all about doing math in your head all the time,” Dachis explained.
But every piece of technology that he found existed in a silo. Nothing worked together to combine data sets to give him a full picture of his condition.
After 25 years in the digital marketing world with his company Razorfish, Dachis dove headfirst into healthcare and founded One Drop in October of 2014. Less than a year later, the company launched its first product.
Now, One Drop’s diabetes management tools help more than 650,000 people in 195 countries measure and track their blood glucose levels, medications, carbohydrate intake and activity levels.
Dachis isn’t the only person at One Drop with diabetes – half of the company’s employees have diabetes and all of them have a direct relationship to someone with diabetes.
“Diabetes is in our DNA,” Dachis said. “And I think that’s the kind of perspective that allows us to fight every day relentlessly to improve the lives of people with diabetes. Because we are those people.”
Diabetes is the most expensive problem facing healthcare systems around the world, according to One Drop’s CEO, who described the spread of diabetes as a “run-away freight train.”
Just like other arenas in healthcare, some industry players in diabetes are re-thinking the delivery model through which they interact with and treat patients. One Drop’s approach is to offer their products through a subscription model, which Dachis said was an intentional choice to move away from a healthcare system that he classified as broken.
“The process of making those drugs and bringing them to market, or making those devices and bringing them to market or delivering that service through the healthcare system today, that entire system is so broken and so extensive and bureaucratic and inaccessible and unavailable and opaque to most people,” Dachis said.
So we’re simplifying the economic model where people can say I get unlimited access to my diabetes coach. I get unlimited access to a diabetes curriculum that’s gonna help me manage my diabetes. I get unlimited supplies to help me manage my diabetes and it’s at a single little subscription monthly price. People get that. They understand that. We think we can deliver better care, cheaper, faster in a way that people understand and are willing to pay for.”
One Drop is betting that people are interested in a digital place to store all of their information relating to their diabetes – and it’s not just for the tech-savvy millennial, according to Dachis. The platform’s average user is in their 50’s and is a Type II diabetic, the CEO reported.
“They have mobile phones, they can play Candy Crush Saga, they can manage their diabetes on One Drop,” he said.
The company’s users are not shy about expressing their love for One Drop’s products, like their sleekly-designed glucose monitor. Users routinely post on Twitter and Instagram, sharing their experience with the devices and interacting with Dachis and the rest of the One Drop team.
But his presence on social media isn’t necessarily a part of a larger business strategy, Dachis insisted.
“One Drop is rooted in the empathy required by people that have diabetes. I have diabetes every day and you know what? I struggle with the same things that my users struggle with every single day,” he said. “We have those same situations, we have the same stresses. We’re not sleeping the way you’re not sleeping. We’re up with low blood sugar the way you’re up with low blood sugar.”
The relatively young company is competing with a number of well-established players in the diabetes industry. But One Drop has also partnered with big names, including Fitbit (NYSE:FIT) and Dexcom (NSDQ:DXCM).
Beyond the One Drop app that will be available for FitBit’s Ionic watch in the first quarter of next year, there are other plans on the horizon that the company hasn’t announced yet, according to Dachis. He said the same for his company’s work with Dexcom.
On top of the relationships that the company is establishing across the industry, Dachis said they are also working to prove themselves using clinical data. He is betting that potentially millions of people around the world will be interested in One Drop’s technology if they can demonstrate that it is both affordable and effective.
“That really is the story for the coming years. It’s about the continued revolution in healthcare,” Dachis said. “Who are the players and how is it happening? Where is this transformation coming from? If we get to take part in that story, boy, that would be great.”