On Friday, Nov. 17 we held our 7th annual DiabetesMine Innovation Summit (#dbminesummit17) at Stanford School of Medicine – this year with a theme of “Problem-Solving Our Healthcare.”

That is, given how healthcare has become so politicized and gridlocked of late, we chose to highlight novel problem-solving approaches in each of these areas, to inspire us all to go further:

  • Tools for Managing Diabetes
  • Support Services for PWDs (people with diabetes)
  • The Access & Affordability crisis

Every invited speaker and panelist was chosen because they honed in on a specific healthcare or diabetes care problem, and created an innovative fix.

You can check out the full agenda and program here, and the event photos on our Facebook page.

With this post, we’d like to walk you all through the program, with links to presentation slides wherever possible — starting with my own opening remarks that set the stage. 


Healthcare Design Learnings

Brian Hoffer, Founder of Gestalt Design, kicked off the day with an inspirational keynote about “Transforming Healthcare Through Design.”

He gave insightful examples from three companies he’s worked with: Pill Pack, the $100M company he helped found with the aim of solve complexity of managing refilling and taking multiple medications; EyeNetra, a suite of devices and a platform for remote care in optometry; and Project Leap, a new online resource he’s involved in creating to help people with type 1 diabetes overcome emotional barriers to adopting modern diabetes devices (!)

That final project has received some funding from the Helmsley Trust, and will culminate in a new site called DiabetesWise.org that will allow T1D’s to share their experiences with diabetes tools and technology. Just up our alley like our Test Kitchen video review hub idea!

Some key takeaways Brian presented on successful design for healthcare were:

  • Make it simple. 
  • Find ways to make products more pharmacist
    accessible and get them more involved.
  • Co-create with users living with the issues they
    were trying to solve (!)
  • Perception of cost matters, as so many people
    don’t really know how to find out cost or how to self advocate. 
  • Whatever you design, make it personal, real for
    people and motivating.

Amen! Check out Brian’s presentation here.


PWDs on the Social Web: Hello Netnography!

Next up, I debuted our 2017 DiabetesMine™ research project based on a new methodology called Netnography.

Netnography is a form of observational qualitative research based on an ethnographic approach, meaning that researchers “embed themselves in the environment” to observe, much like scientists who travel to Africa or other remote regions to live among the subjects they’re studying.

In this case, the environment is social media, and the aim is to take a “deep dive” into online conversations to identify themes, sentiments, and perceptions.

The father of this approach is Prof. Rob Kozinets of USC Annenberg, who is currently writing his 3rd book on this methodology, which he believes has huge potential for many industries to gain real insight into what customers care about – far beyond just tracking hash tags or word clouds.

For our diabetes Netnography study, we recruited a team of student researchers who came to us through the College Diabetes Network. They are all living with type 1 diabetes, so they certainly understand the subject, but were not previously active in the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) so they still came to the project with “fresh eyes.”

In short, our team identified six big themes defining what PWDs are doing and creating online; these themes obviously do overlap, but we found distinct examples and insights for each.

The key takeaways for all were as follows:


And for the brands in the house, this project helped us to come across a wealth of Best Practices around how to best ENGAGE with patients online rather than simply MESSAGE TO US…!

Because the findings here are very “multimedia” and require explanation, we are not currently posting the slideset – but please do be in touch should you have a vested interest.


Featured Problem-Solvers

Problem-Solving via… Creating Cost Transparency & Highlighting Patient Innovation

First up, we welcomed Burt Rosen of Healthsparq, a small but growing Oregon-based outfit with the mission of “Helping People Make Smarter Health Care Choices.” 

They partner closely with their health plan clients to build cost transparency and integrated tools for efficiency and quality service.

As Chief Marketing Officer, Burt also has a personal connection to patient activism, and even launched the new “What’s the Fix?” virtual conference to “put people back in the center of the healthcare conversation.”

See Burt’s slides here.


Problem-Solving via… Linking Apps to Outcomes

Some may recognize Keith McGuinness as former co-founder & CEO of CalorieKing, an app and book that is now a household name for its user-friendly food diary and food database.

Today Keith is co-founder & CEO of edifyHealth, a start-up building a platform to validate the effectiveness of behavior-change focused apps while people use them.

His conviction is that medical and health apps are basically useless if they’re not tied to actual outcomes, therefore he calls for replacing the “Datapalooza” with an “Outcomespalooza.” We agree!

Keith gave an introduction into how his new firm is working to created a “validated trust platform” to evaluate the real impact of apps, which would then be used by health plans to decide where to put their money. See Keith’s slides here.


Problem-Solving via… Empowering Insulin Users

 Speaking of apps with a specific therapeutic outcome, we were delighted to introduce a forum featuring a wave of new diabetes tools with possibly the most important outcome of all: GETTING YOUR INSULIN DOSING RIGHT.

We featured four companies leading the way on sophisticated new tools that will make it easy(er) for patients to successfully set and adjust their insulin doses:

We were thrilled to have as moderator this session none other than Dr. David Ahn, a highly tech-savvy endocrinologist and assistant clinical professor at UCLA.

David’s passion for endocrinology and diabetes tech was first kindled after reviewing the first iPhone-compatible glucose meter as an editor for iMedicalApps.com from 2010-2015. Today he is co-chair of the Clinical Diabetes Technology Meeting and serves as Tech Editor of the blog for the nonprofit profit Taking Control of Your Diabetes (blog.tcoyd.org).

Click on the company names above to see the brief intro slides that each of these orgs presented on their emerging insulin dosing tools.


Problem-Solving via… Tech-Enabled Coaching

Ever heard of Lark before? Neither had we, although this Artificial Intelligence health tool and its young founder Julia Hu have received multiple honors and accolades over the past few years.

Growing up with her own chronic illness struggles gave Julia the passion to try to figure out how to “scale the love” and nurturing care of good healthcare providers. She

worked with health experts and coaches from Stanford and Harvard, and other AI technologists to develop Lark – a 24/7 “personal AI nurse that texts people to help them manage and prevent chronic disease – anytime, anywhere.”

According to their site, Lark’s AI nurse is the first non-human technology to fully replace a live healthcare professional and be fully reimbursable with a CPT code and is managing the equivalent caseload of nearly 21,000 full time HCPs.

Julia gave an inspiring presentation, ending with a call for people in the Diabetes Community to sign up for their pilot program directed specifically at diabetes care (email kevin@lark.com).


Problem-Solving via… Pairing D-Tools with Coaching

We’ve been saying for quite a while that patients need both a high-tech and a high-touch approach to optimize their diabetes care!

Luckily, three companies familiar to our readers are providing just that, combining their glucose measuring devices and apps with coaching services – to really help patients in a “hands-on” way.

For this discussion forum, we featured both a key employee and a “power user” from each company. We also asked each of these companies to provide a brief video illustrating their “use case,” which really brought their offerings to life. Click the company names below to view the videos:   

After each video, it was great to hear their patients talk live about what it’s like getting this kind of help and support. What they all seemed to agree on was that having a handy tech tool is great, but knowing there’s a live person on the other end with the expertise to answer their specific questions is what makes these offerings actual game-changers (!)


Problem-Solving via… Changing Our Mindset

We asked design experts Brian Hoffer (our keynote speaker) and Sara Krugman (UX designer many may recognize from her work with Tidepool and Beta Bionics) to lead an interactive session that would give our participants a taste of DESIGN THINKING for problem solving.  

What they came up with was, “An Outside-In Approach to System Design Problems” that led people through creating a so-called Journey Map – tracking a user’s experience in context mapped over time. Journey Mapping is defined as “a holistic process for organizations to uncover user needs.”

Without giving away their entire workshop curriculum, we’d just like to share these two graphics that illustrate what is meant by an “Outside-In” approach vs. “Inside-Out”:


This was a wonderfully meaty activity and great chance for our mix of patients, industry folks, clinicians, regulators and other experts to roll up their sleeves and co-create!


Problem-Solving via… Tackling Access Barriers 

In the afternoon, we heard from three problem-solvers working on the Access and Affordability Crisis from three very different viewpoints:

John Henry, MyCareConnect – this grassroots networked solution serves a sort of a concierge for families dealing with type 1 diabetes across the country. They’re filling a gap in our system by helping people left blindsided, overwhelmed, and in need of guidance to “navigate the system” and get what they need to thrive. (Slides here)


Rachel Norman, Betterthis Stanford-based startup is ambitiously tackling the biggest healthcare issue of our time: assisting people directly with filing healthcare claims and helping them get money back!

Seriously, Better is a new mobile app that helps you get money back from health insurance companies. Since founding in 2016, it’s helped Americans file over $2M in out-of-network claims – yes, also for diabetes! (Slides here)


Daniel Trodden, Insulet Corp. for a look at the Access issue from the industry side, we wanted to know: What does it take to bring an innovative medical device to market?

Insulet’s VP of Market Access is responsible for ensuring patients have access to the Omnipod by navigating managed care, channel distribution, contracting, advocacy and government affairs functions.

He shared with us some of the major hurdles, and Insulet’s learnings, from the process of dealing with CMS, etc. Frustrating stuff! (Slides here)



Those 2017 DiabetesMine Usability Award Winners!

To top off the day, I presented the results of our 2017 Patient Voices Survey, and the DiabetesMineTM Usability Innovation Awards fueled by that study.

We launched this awards program in 2015 to showcase and honor the standout tools and services that are making the diabetes daily grind easier, according to the Patient Community itself.

Our 2017 Winners, announced last week, are…



You can read more details about the 2017 DiabetesMineTM Usability Innovation Awards Winners here.

And download a PDF report of our 2017 Patient Voices Survey findings here.



DiabetesMine Innovation Summit Kudos











HUGE THANKS to all our supporters, and especially our 2017 Program Sponsors for making this all possible!