It’s 9 a.m. on any given day. Do you know where your diabetes management is?
If not, there’s a new virtual clinic on the scene offering complete diabetes care starting at the low rate of $20 for a basic telehealth visit. On top of that, it also ships prescription medications and at-home lab tests directly to your door.
This new virtual clinic is known as 9am.health, a name drawing inspiration from the notion that each new day is a time to start again and do better than you might have done the day before. The San Diego-based clinic is for those living with type 2 diabetes (T2D) and prediabetes, so it’s not geared to anyone with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and probably won’t be in the future. And while one of the big appeals is that this virtual clinic does ship medications right to your door, insulin is not one of those currently offered.
What’s interesting is that this T2D-focused virtual clinic is co-founded by T1D peep Frank Westermann, an entrepreneur with particular street credit in the diabetes community given his success creating the popular mySugr mobile app. That Austria-based startup was eventually sold to Roche Diabetes Care in 2017, and Westermann says his time there directly influenced the formation of this newest venture. He’s co-founder and co-CEO, alongside fellow mySugr alum Anton Kittelberger, who also lives with T1D.
DiabetesMine spoke with Westermann recently about how the learnings he and business colleagues took from mySugr helped pave the way for 9am.health, which launched in September 2021 and is now available in 33 states across the United States.
Westermann thinks of mySugr as telehealth 1.0 and 2.0 versions, while 9am.health is the next generation, allowing more extensive models of care and prescription medication fills — all of which can be delivered to people’s homes to coincide with digital check-ins.
“It’s a digital front door to healthcare, offering 360-degree care with a clinic,” Westermann told DiabetesMine. “Healthcare is just not a great experience in the U.S. Costs have increased massively, but outcomes for those with diabetes haven’t gotten better. Good healthcare doesn’t need to be expensive, and I’m determined to prove that.”
Subscribers to 9am.health can get personalized treatment plans with 24/7 access to “patient care advocates,” a network of endocrinologists and diabetes care and education specialists (DCES) who can answer patient questions and provide care virtually.
They have contracted with a network of diabetes professionals spread out throughout the country, and internally they have 18 employees in house.
As far as costs, the company uses a subscription model, starting at $20 per month.
- Subscribers get the first (non-insulin) prescription medication delivered to their homes, as well as unlimited support from the diabetes care team via chat.
- Any additional medications cost $5 each.
- Refills can be filled on a monthly or quarterly basis as needed.
- At-home tests for A1C or cholesterol lipid screenings are available for $15 per month, which includes delivery and being sent back to a lab for analysis.
9am.health doesn’t develop its own tests or supplies; they have licensing agreements with those manufacturers and simply add their virtual clinic’s brand on the packaging. The same goes for the medications, which are shipped from 9am.health, but are made by established pharma companies.
They only accept cash pay, so no insurance is needed. Westermann believes the barriers to healthcare are often tied to insurance companies and middlemen, who only serve to complicate the process and jack up the final price tag. So, instead of replicating those issues, they’re cutting out the middlemen and keeping it cash-price only.
To get started, subscribers sign up on the 9am.health site using any device and fill out a medical questionnaire. Then, they get connected to a particular healthcare provider, likely one who is licensed to practice in their particular state.
“We want to make this as smooth as possible, so it’s not like your traditional healthcare experience,” Westermann said.
As to the name 9am.health, he laughs and says it comes from the idea that each day of life with a chronic condition is a “daily battle,” and that each day you have a chance to start over and do something differently or better, starting each 9 a.m.
“Forget about whatever happened yesterday. It’s a new chance for the new day to manage your diabetes,” he said. “We really want to empower people to just make the day as good as it can get, and take every day as a chance to get better.”
Of course, we’re living in a new era of telehealth that exploded with the COVID-19 pandemic, so new online healthcare solutions are popping up like weeds.
Westermann says he recognizes a gap in what’s available for those with prediabetes and T2D. While many in the T1D world more commonly use diabetes technology and mobile apps that support telemedicine and virtual care, those not on insulin have a more difficult time finding helpful options.
“T2D needs are often different,” Westermann said. “Many feel
Westermann points to stats from the American Diabetes Association showing that the average person with diabetes spends about $16,750 per year on medical expenses, which is more than twice as high as what they’d spend without the condition.
Westermann confirms that COVID-19 and the changing telehealth landscape helped make this a perfect time for 9am.health to materialize. Virtual care is primed for more people who need healthcare but traditionally have not had access to it, he said.
Up until 2020, many telehealth visits were not reimbursed the same as in-person office appointments. That meant primary care doctors, specialists and other providers like diabetes educators and nutritionists weren’t paid the same rates for that care. This led to many healthcare providers pushing back on embracing virtual care.
That changed in 2020, when the effects of the pandemic led the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to relax those rules and enable more people to access their healthcare remotely. Insurance companies did the same, giving people more access to needed care.
“I clearly foresee a future in which more devices… within households [can] communicate needed data to a provider,” Westermann said. “That at-home healthcare, combined with the regulatory framework, has really come to a point where holistic remote care is more possible.”