“If you look at the best kind of behavioral science programs out there, all of them really, really leverage social connections,” says Omada Health cofounder Sean Duffy. And his company is successfully taking that method out of the lab and into healthcare. Omada partners with major insurance companies, including Kaiser Permanente and Humana, to identify highly motivated individuals at risk of diabetes, and then coaches them into a healthier lifestyle. The company grew 10 times last year, and users lost an average of 5% of their body weight—big, important numbers for the health care industry, given that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in America, and is responsible for $245 billion in annual medical costs, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Until recently, diabetes was the only ailment that Omada addressed, with one in three Americans at risk of developing diabetes, and 90% unaware of their risk level, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s especially problematic because diabetes is preventable with the right lifestyle changes. Omada’s program, called Prevent, intends to fulfill its name. It lasts 16 weeks (or more, if participants wish to maintain their health), and begins by connecting each user to a personal health coach and mailing them devices such as a digital scale and pedometer so they can track their progress. From there, Prevent offers weekly fitness and nutrition lessons; a way to track food, drinks, and activities; and regular feedback—from the personal coach, as well as from other participants.
Omada, which was founded in 2011 and conceived inside Ideo, is so confident of its ability to drive impactful lifestyle change that last year it switched to a performance-based pricing model. Now it charges health plans and employers based solely on how well participants do. So far, everyone’s doing great.