Skip to main content

Transforming Healthcare Through Data: Omada Health CEO on the Insights Lab

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   May 27, 2021

Sean Duffy, CEO of Omada Health, speaks about the company's vision, the plan behind the creation of the Insights Lab, and how other recent initiatives were launched.

Omada Health, a San Francisco-based digital care company, recently announced the launch of The Omada Insights Lab, a data-driven initiative to further the organization’s vision in transforming care delivery and outcomes.

This new initiative follows Omada's mission of empowering those with chronic health conditions to lead healthier lives. The Insights Lab will take Omada's data science, behavior science, clinical and product design, as well as care delivery learnings to not only apply it to their members but also share some of its results within the healthcare industry to foster innovative change.

In a recent interview with HealthLeaders, Sean Duffy, CEO of Omada Health, conveyed the healthcare technology company's vision, the plan behind the creation of the Insights Lab, and how other recent initiatives were launched.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

HealthLeaders: Why does Omada want to transform healthcare delivery and outcomes?

Sean Duffy: I [previously] worked in tech, then was in medical school, and I wanted to do something that combined tech and healthcare in different disciplines. The recognition when founding Omada was that we needed an entirely different approach to supporting people, especially with longitudinal care. Back then, digital health or care delivery was always viewed as the icing on the cake versus something foundational.

For a long time, we at Omada have carried a viewpoint that has gone from provocative to a frank reality of healthcare, and that was in-person care should be option B. If you can safely and effectively solve someone's care needs without dragging them into your waiting room, why on earth wouldn't you? Done right, [digital care] can broaden access, create more affordability, and be an extraordinary enabler.

Related: 3 Ways to Tame Chronic Disease With Technology

This was particularly important in chronic care areas where you needed to support someone daily, not see them every three months. Early on, we sat in people's homes who had diabetes and pre-diabetes, and there was just no way that the current healthcare system was set up to help them be successful; people were just falling through the cracks.

We viewed it as a compelling business opportunity, and almost like a societal obligation, to take a crack at thinking through how digital care could be applied to these areas that are important. That was kind of the charter from the beginning and remains the charter today.

HL: Can you talk about the Insights Lab and why this innovation is needed?

Duffy: Omada has a multidisciplinary approach to care. It combines technology, data science, product and clinical design—a broad group of stakeholders. What I saw internally at Omada as we scaled were these cross-functional collaborations in the spirit of changing care, as well as improving and iterating the program. Insights Lab has an opportunity to pour even more fuel on that, because sometimes those things that you see happening in the background organically, you can use as kindling to light a fire and galvanize the effort.

There are two purposes to Insights Lab. The first is internal in the ways that we support our members; [continuing] to institutionalize this multidisciplinary approach that we've had in Omada. It's starting to become more powerful as we get more data and people.

Purpose two is to share some of the insights with the world because there are fascinating things that we've learned that we think are beneficial to care delivery and digital health.

[The Insights Lab is] going to run a dual purpose. You'll see a lot of content, insights, and things we've tested come to light in the public domain soon.

HL: What steps were needed to make the Insights Lab a reality and what are the Lab's goals?

Duffy: You must do a sanity check, [and ask] 'is this something that our teams will like, will it actually work, and is it going to improve [care delivery]?'

Step one is listening, pulling the thoughts that are executing against the craft into the design, and getting thoughts on how to do more of what you're doing already. That was the biggest step.

Step two [was setting up the purpose.] We had to come up with a vision on why we wanted to share some of what we're doing, and what purpose would that have.

Every year, we want the Insights Lab to create even speedier innovation in the way we personalize care, support our members, combine disciplines. That's the ultimate objective. In digital health, especially, if you have created all the needed pieces yourself, which Omada has, all the data is kind of connected so every single person that joins the program has a chance to make it more valuable for the next.

The number one charter for Insights Lab is to not forget that we're in a unique position where we can speed up the innovation velocity in the company.

Number two is to raise all boats and allow some of what we've learned to inspire other digital health entrepreneurs, maybe prevent them from making mistakes, and inspire other product teams that are working in clinical areas that are adjacent.

It's going to be something you and the world will be seeing even more of. It's been fun to watch the teams at Omada latch on to it and get so excited about it.

HL: What are some other strategic initiatives has Omada recently announced?

Duffy: We've made some neat announcements that are characteristic of our priorities.

We launched Physician Guided Care, which is the industry's first virtual cardiometabolic clinic [for members with chronic conditions.] Omada has great clinical capabilities in areas like diabetes. In times past, when we recognized that someone would need a medication change, one of our care teams would [tell the patient to make an appointment with their PCP and produce data for the patients to bring to the doctor.]

What we recognized after a lot of thoughtful planning is there are ways to take on, at the member’s choice, some of those needed clinical services ourselves. So then, [instead of telling them to make an appointment,] we can change medicines, inform and keep their PCP in the loop, and coordinate data and care. We can do it in minutes, rather than you having to go make an appointment, [wait, then show up to the doctors' office.]

It's a special new capability for Omada, and it's one of those where, in healthcare, there are sometimes these trade-offs between an engaging experience and cost and outcomes. Members love it because they don't have to take the time to show up at their PCPs office, and because we're leveraging digital, we can accomplish some of these clinical tasks with a great cost profile. That visit alone to maybe alter your medicine could cost the system $150 or $200.

Related: Special Report: Epic Uproar Exposes Conflict Between Data Privacy and Innovation

It allows you to quickly iterate on medication approaches in chronic diseases like diabetes. By doing that fast and frequently, you can help someone get to clinical health goals far more speedily.

There's also a belief system at Omada where we think the real power of digital health comes from integration between people and technology, and clinicians and technology, versus technology alone. We just launched computer vision capabilities in our Musculoskeletal Care Experience where a physical therapist [PT] can essentially prescribe a functional test to someone [through their phone.]

They put their phone down with the front camera on, and they walk back and when they're in the bounds of the box it turns green. Based on the functional tests the computer vision measures angle function so if the PT wants to track your shoulder function, they'll have you do this functional test [that they can record and] track over time. The idea is to slowly restore shoulder function and give the PT a diagnostic tool in a way that's fun and interesting.

“There's a belief system at Omada where we think the real power of digital health comes from an integration between people and technology, and clinicians and technology, versus tech alone.”

Melanie Blackman is the strategy editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.