Episode 94: ‘How COVID-19 is Reframing Healthcare in America’ with Sean Duffy, co-founder & CEO of Omada Health

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

On Friday March 27th 2020, I launched a limited podcast series addressing how the COVID-19 pandemic is reframing American healthcare.  You can find the introductory episode here.  In this series, I am interviewing future-facing, courageous healthcare leaders and entrepreneurs – asking two questions:

(1) How is the COVID-19 pandemic immediately changing the way you are delivering healthcare?   (2) How will COVID-19 reframe American healthcare for years to come?

The situation is changing rapidly. So, in order to share the remarkable insights from these interviews, as quickly as possible, I’m releasing new episodes as frequently as I can.

Our guest this week is Sean Duffy – the co-founder and CEO of Omada Health, one of the leading digital healthcare companies.  I had the good fortune of meeting Sean about 8 years ago, in the early phases of Omada Health.  After a couple of hours of listening to Sean, I was completely enamored with him, his vision and mission, and with the approach he was taking.  It was, and is, breath-taking and brilliant.  Omada Health is based on solid evidence-based medicine. It’s also based on the science of behavior change – which you’ll hear more about in this interview.  I won’t go into any depth providing Sean’s background; but instead, I would urge you to listen to the first interview I posted with Sean on Nov 7, 2017 – I believe is was episode #12 of Creating a New Healthcare.   For those of you who have read my book, Reframing Healthcare, you’ll know that I quote Sean extensively in the book.  Sean and Omada Health have come a long way in the past few years.  Omada Health has come a long way in the past couple of years.  And, as you’ll hear in this interview, Omada has come a long way in the past couple of months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are numerous critical lessons for the future of US healthcare that emerge from this interview.  The major take home lesson for me is that chronic condition management is more – much more – than a virtual visit or a remote monitoring device.  As Sean points out, it takes a lot of finely tuned and expertly managed instruments, playing all together in sync, from the same symphonic sheet to make meaningful, beautiful and emotionally moving music.  Omada Health has taken a holistic or “whole person” approach, which includes: remote monitoring; 24/7 asynchronous “signal” collection and responsiveness; machine learning and automated responses that enhance customization and personalization of care; expert health coaching and group facilitation; the power of social community to enhance engagement and behavior change; the inclusion of behavioral health monitoring and treatment into its general chronic condition management programs; and advanced motivation and behavior change approaches that include behavioral economic and habit formation techniques.

Omada Health has existed in the digital/virtual/remote realm for many years prior to the COVID-19 era.  As a result, they have a vast trove of experience delivering care in this advanced way, and they can innovate at an accelerated pace.  Another major ‘ahah’ for me during this interview was the point Sean made about the data that is being collected.  Omada Health has, for years, been collecting physiologic, emotional and behavioral signals continuously.  As a result, they’re able to, in real time, analyze and understand how the various phases of the pandemic are affecting its clients and the populations they serve.  This has allowed them to rapidly iterate and adjust their care offerings to anticipate and meet their clients’ current and evolving needs during the pandemic.  This capability will contine to serve them and their clients in the post-COVID-19 era.  One example of the “signals” they’ve been able to collect in real time is the marked increase in depression and anxiety, which they’ve  almost immediately responded to by the inclusion of more behavioral health services in their programs.

I came away from this interview with a greater appreciation for the work that Omada Health has been doing.  My hope is that healthcare systems across the country take advantage of these ‘representatives from the future’; and collaborate in a way that allows us to collectively leapfrog into a more advanced system of health, that not only delivers better care but also delivers more humanistic care.

Until next time, be safe and be well.

Zeev Neuwirth, MD