Health Tech With a Human Touch: David Weingard, Fit4D: NOW #136

Health Tech With a Human Touch: David Weingard, Fit4D: NOW #136


We are here with David Weingard. CEO extraordinaire. Founder of Fit4D. Health Transformer extraordinaire. How are you, welcome. Thank you, Unity. Great to be here. It’s always fun to see you. So, I thought we’d start the conversation
by hearing more about your mission. Why, Fit4D? Why you created it, and really, what your
moonshot is for Fit4D? I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the
age of 36 and I was really fortunate to meet a great diabetes educator, a clinician who,
through human touch, taught me how to manage my diabetes, gave me the support that I needed. Took all the information on the internet and
really made it personal to me. And that experience stayed with me. I left Microsoft to found the company after
I realized if we could take her expertise and scale using technology, we really could
do something amazing in this country and the world. You know, it’s interesting, because so much
of the discussion around innovation has to do with digital solutions and technology,
and you said something that struck me there, which is, the value of the human touch. Can you speak a little more about that, and
how that plays into what you’re doing at Fit4D? Yeah it’s amazing. We see this everyday, that the way people
change behavior, especially with diabetes, where, you, it’s a progressive disease. If you don’t take care of it, nothing bad’s
going to happen the next day, but it’s going to happen over time. So, people have to really be educated and
they have to want to eat right, take their medications, exercise, and they have to learn
to self manage. And for that, they need to trust someone that’s
really an educator, an expert in diabetes that builds trust with them. And, understands their world and understands
that if they’re living in the South Bronx, you can’t recommend that the person go exercise
on the street, you’ve got to guide them to a New York City place where they can work
out in safety. Or if we’re dealing with a farmer in Nebraska,
we have to work around their schedule where they’re in planting season and they can
only talk at 9 o’clock at night. So, delivering that human touch is one part,
but delivering at the right time in the right context of the person’s world, is really what’s
critical. So, you’re really mixing technology in a
scalable way with this human touch to create your solution. Exactly. Because the human touch is really what helps
people get to self manage, but it’s the technology that enables it to scale. So, if you look at a doctor’s office, they’re,
doctors and the clinicians are doing great work, but it’s not necessarily scalable. People have to travel there, they have to,
especially if they have diabetes, to get to a diabetes clinical expert. Maybe three or four hours away, in a lot of
parts of the country. Or for seniors, being able to get physically
to that office. Imagine having that virtual connection with
the diabetes expert who gets to know their world and helps them through the experience. The human touch, you know, is really what
makes a difference, into what we were just talking about. The figuring out how to make that whole experience
scalable is what Fit4D has innovated and accomplished over the last period of years. So, talk a little bit about what the solution
is in practical terms, so people understand it, and how it works. Great. So, we’re a b2b business and we get patients
from either our pharmaceutical med device clients who feed those patients to us every
day, to solve for initiation through medication and persistency to medication. Forty percent of the patients who are prescribed
a new diabetes medication drop off in the first six months. So, for pharma, it’s a multi-billion-dollar
problem. They’re paying us to solve for it and create
a brand experience. So, we’re getting those patients every day
from them and in the payor/provider world. We’re getting patients from payors that include
Health First, or Blue Cross, or Humana, which we just recently signed, where they’re feeding
us the patients who are, their diabetes is poorly controlled, and we’re going to work
with them. So, once we get the patients, we engage with
the patient for a 3 to 6 month time period, where we understand what’s happening in
their world, and we solve for barriers. We solve for barriers to stay on the medication,
we solve for barriers to self management, like exercise or nutrition. We educate them. A lot of people really, they were told they
had diabetes from their physician and then, really, don’t really understand what it’s
about. And so, that is what we do over that period
of time. Yeah, so you mentioned the value for pharma
and the payors. I’d love to hear a little more from the
patient perspective, from your perspective as a patient. You really created this knowing the experience
yourself of having diabetes. What does this mean for patients? It’s really a lifeline to them. Diabetes is a 24/7 disease. Not a day goes by, not a part of the day goes
by where people don’t have to take their diabetes into account. If they’re on medications they have to remember
to take it. There’s side effects. If you’re taking insulin, there’s high
blood glucose, low, which you could pass out from. A very complicated disease. Everything you eat, exercise, do, affects
it. It affects the energy levels you have, the
stress and of course, the long term complications, including cardiovascular disease, or potentially
losing a foot, or an arm, or whatever. So, people are really hungry to figure out
how to do it. They just don’t know how. They need to be educated and they need somebody
to teach them in digestible chunks and the way that they communicate and their schedule. Also, some people learn better by phone, some
people learn better, with getting an email with a link to a video afterwards, or a text
message reminder, or coming to an online support group. So, we really try to use all different technologies
and multi channel communications to deliver what people want at the time they want it,
in the format that they can digest it. Diabetes is something that impacts people
all over the world. Is this type of solution, is this something
that you see working globally? You see it working in populations everywhere? Absolutely. For a sense of context, there’s 30 million
people with diabetes in the U.S. There’s 350 million people with diabetes in
the world. And certain countries, China, India, parts
of the Middle East, Germany have a very high incidence of diabetes. And so, we are focusing on the U.S. market
now. And we’re leveraging all the innovation we
had in our early years with pharma and med device. While we continue working there, we’re expanding
into the payor market, as I’ve shared, to focus on outcomes and then we feel we’re going
to have the core competencies to leverage that which within any regulatory infrastructure
or workflow that any country has. We are already delivering care in English,
Spanish, and Chinese. And we have a great clinical team, so, it’s
more about working with the right partners in those countries to make sure we customize
it to the culture and deliver it in a way that it’s effective within their regulatory
system. Extraordinary. And, one of the things that I’m very proud
of, and is wonderful to see for you, and patients everywhere, is how much momentum there is
around what you’re doing. How much traction you’re getting. You mentioned Humana and Blue Cross. These are big players that are flocking to
your solution. Why is that? What’s going on here? Have you cracked the code here by combining
technology with this human touch? I think we have. And it’s unbelievable to see the alignment
of incentives across the system now. The payors are looking to deliver outcomes
and provide value based services to their providers. They’re trying to differentiate themselves
with the patients so that they stay members of their plan. And, they’re being measured on outcomes. And so, they will have care teams, they all
have member services departments. They all have an ecosystem where the providers
don’t have enough time. And so, what they don’t have, is access to
highly trained, diabetes educators. These clinicians with advanced training in
diabetes, and a way to deliver that care, and package it up in a way that’s scalable
and affordable and delivers a return on investment and helps them achieve their quality measures. And so, that’s what we do. There’s a lot of apps out there. They work for a small percent of the population. Again, people with diabetes, you know, they
have to, first of all, download the app, then they have to use the app, and then they have
to understand how to interpret the data. So, we love apps and we have partnerships
with certain companies where we get access to data that makes the coaching richer. But, what we really see is the opportunity,
the large part of the market, are human beings. Who need that human touch. They need person to person contact to really
create change. People need coaches and partners to get through
their journey. They need the support. They’re under a lot of pressure, and you know,
they feel a sense of failure, People feel, when they’re diagnosed with diabetes, that
they did something wrong. That’s not an app. That’s somebody, kind of, explaining to you
that you didn’t do anything wrong. You might have had a genetic disposition and
you might have made choices in your life that led to the spot that may be helped it. But, you can take care of yourself. You know, there’s a way. You can live a rich life with diabetes. You just have to know how. And people want that. Right. So you’ve been an entrepreneur for years now. Just want to dig in for a second about that
moment where you made the decision to leave the corporate world and become an entrepreneur
and follow your dream and passion to create Fit4D. What was that moment right? Was there an aha moment, or did it happen
and progress over time? Well, there’s two parts of the question. First of all it’s a passion of mine. So I was determined to make it happen. Being a dad, I had to make sure that, I had
you know, some business lined up for the company. So, I work nights and weekends for a while
while I was at Microsoft getting that first client signed. And when we did, then I left to fulfill, you
know, the mission and my dream. So, it really takes a lot of tenacity and
belief to get to that point and a lot of hard work. But I’m really proud of doing it. That moment is very similar to me when I’m
in a triathlon where you’re about to start the race and it’s early in the morning the
sun is rising, the water is ice cold and you got to just jump in and start. You just have to go. The gun goes off, you got to go. And from that moment on it’s been, it’s been
a great ride. You guys raised your series A two years ago. You’ve got such extraordinary momentum now. What you’re doing is working, is helping people,
there’s a lot of data around the outcomes. How do you know when it’s the right time to
go back out and really get that growth capital to keep scaling to the next level? It’s really exactly what you’re talking about. It’s, how big can you get? What’s the size of the market? Which is huge, you know, diabetes is huge
in the U.S. and globally. And, where are the spots that if we had additional
capital we could accelerate the business even further? And for us, we have the proof points now. We have the infrastructure. We’re executing on the patients every day. It’s about taking the business to the next
level. So, we are planning a series B in the fall
of this year to take that capital and invest in growth. And are you looking at strategic partners
as well as traditional venture partners, everything? Where’s your head at, at this point? What’s really important, we have, thankfully,
we have support from our existing investors and they want to commit, they’re committed
to Fit4D. What we’re looking for is a lead who is strategic,
Maybe they have LPs that are, payor’s. So that, it’s not only about the money, but
it’s about providing value to their LPs and their investor base. And that we can really, 1 and 1 equals 3. That together, we could really accelerate
the growth and the value of the business. So, finding the, that company that we have
an alignment of culture, ideals, and also the composition of their network is really
critical. Well, it’s you know, it’s such an extraordinary
and important challenge that you’re solving. It is exciting to see all the different types
of investors that are now focusing on investing in this area, from employers to the payors,
the pharma companies, and traditional venture money that’s coming in. So, it’s really important and looking forward
to collaborating with you during that series b. Thank you, it’s, StartUp Health has been phenomenal
during our whole growth phase, and the support and education we’ve got have been great. So, thank you. Thank you.

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