Edited by: Adriano Fontanari
One Drop is a diabetes management company founded in 2014. It is well known for the unique design of its device and AI platform that can predict the glucose level in the blood up to 8 hours in advance. EIT Health Alumni had a chance to interview Jeffrey Dachis, CEO of the start-up.
Dear Jeff, thanks for joining us for this interview. Could you describe to us how One Drop started out?
I was diagnosed with Type one diabetes in September 2013 and I was incredibly frustrated with the state of healthcare in the way I was being treated. I had to go to the doctor’s office, speak with my insurance about payment and only then schedule an appointment. Finally, I had to wait because the doctor was not ready to see me right away and I was terrified. When I managed to go to the doctor I was given an insulin pen and the prescription for more insulin and a glucose meter.
I was then suddenly out the door with diabetes, a life-threatening condition, that requires detailed knowledge about food, physical activity, medications, glucose, and the physiological body. I need to understand what is going on with me each and every day not just when I’m at the doctor’s office. Day in and day out I was very frustrated that none of these things was available on my mobile phone at the time, nothing!
No connected glucometers, no connected insulins pens, there were no connected health devices that I could use to measure what was going on my body each and every day and that could help me to make better choices. One Drop was really born out of that, a personal frustration with the health system and the way I was being treated, and the current state of affairs in health care in terms of giving me access to my data and my health information and my bioinformatics so that I could make my own decisions.
One Drop was really founded with the idea that we could empower people, and could show them the opportunity to live their life each and every day. We want people to understand what is going on in their body, to make better choices, and to better understand the possibilities of what a healthy life can look like.
What is your background, and how have your past experiences shaped One Drop?
I am a serial entrepreneur, I built many companies in my life, primarily in user experience design, - I started a company 25 years ago called Razorfish which was one of the world’s largest interactive agencies. During that time I have really been fortunate to work with talented colleagues, creating compelling digital experiences. This is what I brought to One Drop, a special attention to details in crafting experiences.
Delivery of care is fragmented across different stakeholders (e.g. doctor, insurance, hospital). Is there a paradigm shift with One Drop, in terms of accessibility of care and overall experience in diabetes management?
One Drop is relentlessly focused on the end-user. We aim to bring back power, education, information and capability to the user.
Each year we spend 825 billion dollars on diabetes alone, trying to treat 500 million people worldwide, despite the fact that there have been over 40 new treatment pathways introduced into the diabetes landscape over the last decade. The improvement in the life of people with diabetes in terms of A1c values which is the one thing people measure with diabetes, has been close to zero. Nevertheless, people are still suffering just as badly with diabetes in society today. We are empowering people to treat themselves, and focus on the end user, not on the doctor, the clinic, the insurance, the drugmaker, or the device maker, but on the Person who has diabetes.
At One Drop we are relentlessly focused on the end-user who has diabetes or other chronic conditions by offering people accessible tools, technologies, care, guidance, information, education at the moment they need it. When you focus on the user and you deliver a service with empathy, respect and humility
What is the biggest challenge One Drop tackled in the early days?
The problem we tackle every day and still tackle is one of perception. Today everybody thinks of the doctor as the person with a white coat that can fix a patient when they are ill. We refer to this as a ‘fixed mentality’ in the healthcare system. If I have a broken arm, I go to the doctor and they are great at fixing me. With diabetes and other chronic conditions, I can’t go to the doctor and be fixed. I have to do some work myself. I have to take my health into my own hands. I have to change the way I eat, I have to think to take my medications when I am supposed to. I have to engage in some form of physical activity and I have to have the information to make those choices, when necessary, not when it is convenient for the doctor. So, the biggest problem we have is the general perception that ‘the healthcare system is going to fix me.
People need to be empowered to fix themselves. At One Drop we create digital solutions in healthcare and self-care, in order to support the person in making the correct choices. Engaging in your own self-care on your mobile phone every day requires a paradigm shift in how users perceive what is supposed to happen.
What was the unique selling proposition (USP) of One Drop when you were building the MVP?
We started with the idea that we could provide more information to people, with predictions. How we are achieving our missions is an iterative process.
What we needed to find out in the MVP was how we could get people to engage in some form of their own care. Indeed, One Drop has a highly engaging experience. Different from the experience of going to the doctor and different from other digital experiences.
The attention to design is something that is definitely setting One Drop apart from the competition. Do you have any suggestions for founders that are designing a medical device?
The user experience is more than just pretty design. It is not just making things look beautiful, which is important, but rather, designing the whole experience, It is every button, every pixel, every bit of packaging. It is the way you buy it, the way you feel when you open the box. It is about the complete experience. My advice is to think about this complete experience otherwise you are missing the part of the design that matters.
You can make something beautiful but it has to be more than beautiful, it has to be useful, and it has to deliver value and people have to want to use it.
How do you envision the future of diabetes management?
Well, the Person will be in charge of diabetes management not the doctor. To me, when I think about diabetes management I am thinking about a health or a medical condition, a therapeutic area. I do not believe the future of diabetes management rests in the hands of the doctor trying to treat the symptoms of diabetes. I believe that the future of diabetes management lies in a person, I do not think they are patients ever. Indeed, there are people who happen to have diabetes, heart diseases, hypertension, but they are first of all people. People that live their life every single day, going to work, or hanging out with their family, going to a birthday party, or visiting the local pub.
Therefore the future of diabetes management isn't diabetes management itself, but in empowering people to reimagine what is possible to engage in their own self-care in a way that allows them to avoid complications or problems with their health before they happen. The future of diabetes management is predictive, preventive, proactive self-care, which keeps the complications and problems with diabetes away before they even happen.
Is there anything else that you would like to add for this interview?
The only way to get to this future is with data. Only the companies that create experiences, which allow the user to engage with their own data, and I mean a lot of data, are going to win that battle. There are a lot of interesting companies in the landscape of diabetes management but that do not collect enough data that can lead to the future I described. The way we can get there is by creating experiences that allow for a multitude of health data to be available to an end-user in a useful format. If a company wanting to change diabetes management or any other chronic condition is not thinking about how to get the data and the pathway to collect this data then this future is not possible. It is very important that every future self-care solution is powered by real-world data.
A special thanks to Jeffrey Dachis (@jeffdachis) for this interview!