Create a comprehensive diabetes management system for the digital age.
An end-to-end program that helped people with type 2 diabetes live healthier, happier lives through the power of habit.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, almost 10% of the population. The vast majority of these diagnoses are type 2, which is commonly treated through a combination of medicine, diet, and exercise. Today, one of the major barriers to better outcomes is access to trusted information. As little as 15% of people with diabetes receive adequate education from their healthcare providers on managing their disease and making recommended lifestyle changes.
Ascensia Diabetes Care, a global healthcare company, has been a leader in diabetes treatment for over 70 years, known primarily for producing blood glucose meters. IDEO has worked with Ascensia for more than a decade, helping develop and design their CONTOUR NEXT ONE meter in 2016. In 2017, Ascensia engaged IDEO with a new goal of moving the company beyond physical devices. Ascensia envisioned a first-of-its-kind approach to educating and monitoring diabetes patients. In partnership with IDEO, they wanted to build a comprehensive solution—one that would not simply take glucose readings and document food intake, but would consider all factors that impact a person's health.
Through deep collaboration, Ascensia and IDEO built a powerful app-based service. The project began with a strategic vision for the experience and ended with the delivery of an all-encompassing health offering, including training of providers, packaging, app design, content creation, and visual design.
The patient experience married data and tracking, real-life mentorship, and personalized content. When a patient signed up, they were paired with a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) who created a tailored program based on their needs and linked them to relevant articles on topics like cooking, mental wellbeing, and sexual health. The IDEO team led the charge in hiring and training guides, crafting the educational content, and even designing the content management hub.
The data engine behind the app is another one of the program's stand-out qualities. The app pulled data from multiple data sources—exercise bands and glucose meters—to provide constant feedback, track progress, and continually refine the experience. To generate empathy, as well as build the app's initial data set, IDEO's data scientists tested the product on themselves. One designer wore a wrist full of exercise monitors around the office and tracked her blood sugar after every meal.
The app-based service was tested with 60 people and demonstrated remarkable early results. Only two participants failed to complete the study—a stunning success rate when adherence to therapy for chronic illnesses in developed countries averages around 50%. Additionally, participants reported drastic improvements in both physical and mental health. One recently widowed 70-year-old woman emerged from depression, returned to swimming, and started having regular blood sugar readings.
The project required Ascensia to embrace new ways of working internally, adopt a broader view of their offering, and ultimately expand the way they serve people with diabetes.