A couple of weeks ago, Medtronic, the maker of the insulin pump I’m wearing, made a few waves with its acquisition of the Diabeter clinic in the Netherlands. Diatribe has some of the details, and they were able to speak with Medtronic Diabetes President Hooman Hakami. To read the full story, CLICK HERE.
Diabeter has clinics in four different locations in the Netherlands, specifically designed to help children manage their diabetes. They do a lot to work on a continual basis with patients, employing technology where possible to help patients make updates and manage their care in between visits to the clinic. And they’re pretty successful too: Eighty-five percent of their Type 1 patients who wear insulin pumps carry an A1c under 7.5, and half of their patients on MDI (multiple daily injections) do the same. Notable is how involved they are in their patient’s care. In short, they and their patients are sharing data, and making updates to therapy where necessary, a lot more often than the every 90 days model that most of us here in the States work with.
What does this deal do for Medtronic? I think it probably means a lot of things, not all of them bad.
First, they’ll be able to get real up-to-date information on patients, allowing them to see where they, as a company, might be able to step in and make a positive impact. If one particular product or plan works better than another for a patient, they’ll be able to see that and then bring their vast resources to bear on helping bring that to a wider group of patients. Likewise, Diabeter should be able to continue helping patients without worrying about who is going to pay the rent every month.
Let’s make no mistake though. Medtronic would not have made this investment without wanting to profit from it. Initially, we know they would like to expand the Diabeter model to others in the Netherlands and throughout Europe. What would that look like? Do patients get charged every time data is shared back and forth with a healthcare professional? If patients are considering an insulin pump or CGM for the first time, will they be able to choose between a Medtronic pump/CGM and other offerings on the market in Europe? We don’t know how it’s going to work… it’s still too early. But I don’t think it would thrill Med-T if most of the patients at Diabeter clinics were wearing an Animas Vibe system.
And finally… since it’s so successful, could the Diabeter model work here in the USA? I certainly think it could. But I don’t think it would have a chance here. That’s because of restrictions that insurance companies would make on constant feedback to and input from your doctor. There’s a reason why we go to the endocrinologist only every 90 days, and it’s not just about A1c. I also think it would tax endos and CDEs, especially, to be that involved in a patient’s care. There aren’t enough of them to go around as it is.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m too pessimistic about all of that. I know this sort of system would work for People With Diabetes here. The real issues around making it happen would be resources and payment.
I must admit that I find this acquisition by Metronic interesting. I’m going to want to see how this works for everyone involved: Medtronic, Diabeter, healthcare professionals, and most of all, patients. Over the next few years, I’m hoping we see the expansion of proven techniques that help PWDs be as successful managing their diabetes as possible, with the least amount of work involved to get there. And I don’t care where the great ideas come from, as long as they keep coming.