Medtronic’s Diabetes Makeover From Device Maker to Disease Manager

The Irish medtech company wants to become a player in the entire continuum of diabetes care, and not just in selling insulin pumps and sensors.

Arundhati Parmar

It's easy to lose track of the investments, acquisitions and partnerships that Medtronic is engaged in the diabetes space. They are too many to recount.

But what's not that hard to conclude is that the Irish medtech company is shedding its old skin--where it simply sold diabetes widgets--for a new one in which it is aspiring to become a diabetes management company that helps patients cope with this burdensome disease.

Learn more about trends in medtech at MD&M Minneapolis, September 21-22, 2016.

On Wednesday, Canary Health, a Los Angeles company, announced that Medtronic would be a re-seller of its digital chronic disease management programs, including its CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program that is aimed at changing behaviors in pre-diabetic people.

But the partnership goes beyond just reselling Canary Health's digital tools.

In fact, both Canary Health and Medtronic plan to develop solutions that "leverage Medtronic's devices, services and infrastructure as well as Canary Health's suite of behavior-change programs, design expertise, and deep user engagement experience," according to a Canary Health news release.

One reason that Medtronic must have been attracted to Canary Health is that the company's digital tools are reimbursable. As digital health programs mature, payers are looking at innovative, yet proven, ways to reduce their cost burden for chronic diseases like diabetes.

And several digital health companies developing tools to prevent people most at risk of developing the disease from getting it have already proved their mettle based on how they have performed.

According to the CDC, people with prediabetes who take part in a structured lifestyle change program--like the one Canary Health has developed or others championed by Omada Health and Noom Health, among others--"can cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% (71% for people over 60 years old)."

The CDC adds that "this finding was the result of the program helping people lose 5% to 7% of their body weight through healthier eating and 150 minutes of physical activity a week." 

Given that diabetes is an expensive, chronic disease, hospitals, doctors, patients, and payers are equally keen to tame this beast.

"This new relationship with Canary Health enables us to offer healthcare organizations broader, deeper and more holistic diabetes management solutions that improve clinical outcomes and bend the cost curve as we pursue value-based healthcare models," Annette Brüls, president of diabetes service and solutions at Medtronic, said in a statement.

And while helping Canary expand its footprint, Medtronic is also helping itself stay relevant in a new healthcare world that rewards companies that can help people stay well and not just fix them when they are not.

In other words, the move is helping to transform it from a company providing sick care to one that actually delivers healthcare.

Arundhati Parmar is senior editor of MD+DI. Reach her at [email protected].

[Image couretesy of user paperteacup]

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