Livongo, an applied health signals company that provides a platform that empowers its members to better manage chronic conditions and works with health plans and self-insured employers, is participating in the healthcare investment conference MedCity INVEST April 23-24 in Chicago. Livongo Chief Commercial Officer Jim Pursley will be part the panel discussion, “How employers are shaking up the healthcare industry”.
In an interview, Pursley talked about how Livongo has moved beyond the company’s initial focus of diabetes management to other conditions that may overlap with the needs of its members, such as hypertension and the company’s recent move into behavioral health.
Let’s start with your background. How did you come to Livongo and your current role at the company?
I had spent most of my career at GE Healthcare and most recently at a joint venture between Intel and GE called Care Innovations, which focused on chronic condition management where I led sales and marketing. While very well-intentioned, the company encountered challenges that were not unusual in digital health. When then-Livongo CEO and Founder Glen Tullman, approached me, I was skeptical because I thought I had seen this before. But the vision for Livongo was truly different. I joined Livongo in the spring of 2014 and it’s been an exciting journey.
Livongo is known for working with employer clients and their employees to help better manage chronic conditions. Could you give a sense of how many employers currently use Livongo and what is driving this adoption?
We ended 2018 with just over 400 active companies and 115,000 active members. Since then, we have added a few hundred more clients, launching 200 clients in January alone. Our employer and health insurer clients are all looking to address a couple of core things and to deliver a program that their people will love. They are also looking to bend the cost curve and for solutions that help them do that. Livongo clients get a trifecta of outcomes: improved member satisfaction, improved clinical outcomes, and reduced healthcare spending, and is why they love working with us today.
You recently launched a voice-enabled blood pressure monitoring system and HIPAA compliant voice enabled skill for people with diabetes in conjunction with Amazon – what was behind these launches?
We believe that voice technology will have an impactful role in helping our members better manage their chronic conditions, and health in general. So Livongo looks to find ways to reduce the friction that our members encounter while managing their chronic conditions. Our members can now use Amazon Alexa’s voice service to ask any of their Alexa-enabled devices to provide their blood glucose readings and health tips through the new Livongo skill in a HIPAA compliant and secure manner. It offers another option for members to interact with Livongo, and their health information, leading to a better member experience. We appreciate that our members want to interact with our platform in different ways and that is a large part of the reason why we launched the Applied Health Signals category last year.
Along with adding an Alexa skill to the Livongo for Diabetes program, we also announced earlier this year that Livongo is leveraging Amazon Lex and Amazon Polly to power our voice-enabled cellular blood pressure monitoring system. Livongo was the first digital health company to do this and adds new ways to deliver personalized and timely health signals that will help drive positive behavior change and clinical outcomes.
In March, Livongo announced findings from a study on your hypertension smartphone app. Given that the company’s initial focus was diabetes, what kind of traction do you have for your hypertension product?
We continue to see exciting traction with the Livongo for Hypertension solution in the market. The recent study we presented at the American College of Cardiology demonstrated that people with both diabetes and uncontrolled high blood pressure who used the Livongo for Hypertension solution saw significant declines in their blood pressure within six weeks. Dr. Bimal Shah, Chief Medical Officer of Livongo and assistant professor at Duke University School of Medicine, was the lead author of the study.
The market response has been fantastic. We know that 70 percent of people with diabetes also have hypertension. To have the highest impact on their health, you have to address both their glycemic and cardiovascular issues. In that way, the hypertension program has been effective for our existing members living with multiple chronic conditions. The Livongo for Hypertension program also allows us to work with a portion of the general population living with hypertension, and where diabetes isn’t a priority, it has given us an opportunity to work with new and existing clients.
Livongo recently acquired myStrength, a company focused on mental health. How does this purchase fit into your company’s strategy?
Of the 180 million Americans who have at least one chronic condition, 20 percent of adults are also dealing with a behavioral health issue. Although it is true that the burden of managing a chronic condition for a prolonged period of time can lead to depression or anxiety, which can undermine a person’s ability to manage their chronic disease, the acquisition is more than that. It is consistent with employers’ desire to have an integrated health solution that is consistent with our whole person approach. Many people live with depression and addiction as well. This acquisition creates opportunities to expand our reach and address millions more lives in really big ways. We are actively in the process of integrating myStrength’s technology into Livongo’s whole person platform.
We see employers making moves to control costs and produce a healthier workforce. Given that you work with some of the largest employers and health plans, do you think these efforts will bring about meaningful changes?
Absolutely. I am a big believer that employers have a mandate and tremendous opportunity to lead when it comes to addressing healthcare related costs and the health of their employees. Their incentives are well aligned. I am very optimistic that employers will lead the transformation of healthcare. We are very bullish about employers as a catalyst for change and are seeing exciting innovation across our client base
How do you balance employers fundamental desire to improve the overall health of their employees with respecting employees’ privacy and sensitive health data?
We take privacy incredibly seriously at Livongo. Trust is one of the most valuable currencies we have. Livongo is not their employer, though. We don’t share sensitive information with employers. The trust we have built has allowed us to better engage with members and its critical to our continued success as a company