Orchestrating Better Health

From the desk of Adrian James, Co-founder of Omada

Omada Health
Aug 22, 2016 · 8 min read

There’s something incredibly moving about orchestral music. Brass, woodwinds, strings, percussion: Each instrument’s part is powerful on its own, but it’s the way they all interweave — some rising up while others recede — that draws me in as a listener.

At Omada, we approach behavior change in much the same way. There’s no single factor or component that does the trick; rather, the way it’s coordinated is what makes it transformational. So if you’ll indulge the metaphor, our program is a lot like an orchestral symphony

Omada’s digital behavior change program can be broken down into four key elements. (Think of them as our brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion.)

  1. Technology with a purpose
  2. Customized curriculum
  3. Hand-picked support network
  4. One-on-one, tailored health coaching

Each on its own is fine, though somewhat limited in terms of lasting results. But bring them together in a thoughtful and deliberate way, and they can keep people truly engaged, and end up reducing risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease by as much as 58%. We believe that this is what makes our behavior change program different from so many others.

At Omada, we love wireless tracking: It makes things so much easier for our participants, and quite frankly, it’s fun. But we insist that tracked data becomes actionable insight for the participant — with help from our data scientists and the personal attention of a health coach. Can you hear the music?

We start by sending every participant in our program a wireless scale to track their weight. It shows up already linked to their account via a cellular connection, so there’s zero setup required.

Then, participants can start automatically tracking their activity with our mobile app, by syncing an existing activity tracker or a digital pedometer. And they can track their nutrition by simply taking a picture of a meal and uploading it via the mobile app.

By tracking their weight, steps, and meals, participants can draw correlations between what they eat, what they do, and how much they lose (or gain), in real time. So they can start making healthier decisions right away.

And they’re not alone in this. All of this tracking gives Omada reliable data points to analyze and — more importantly — act upon. This data helps us respond with the right intervention for the right person at the right time. To date, Omada participants have stepped onto their scales more than 7,000,000 times, and walked over 10,000,000 miles. So we’ve been able to connect a lot of dots between eating habits, exercise, and meaningful weight loss.

“I’m such a fan of the tracking tools. As much as I feared the scale every morning, I began to also fall in love with it down the road. I liked logging into the app and seeing the progress of the trending weight weigh-ins and seeing the overall # move.”

–Deb, 43, lost 10 lbs.

We created 70 online, interactive lessons based on the The National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) guidelines, addressing nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management. Participants in our program can work through lessons them at their convenience — all they need is an internet connection or a smartphone.

In this way, Omada solves a crucial access problem, both for individuals and for our country as a whole. The CDC estimates that 60% of adults are at risk for diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and in-person prevention programs can only reach so many people. Taking it digital creates the potential to help pull millions more people back from the brink of costly, debilitating chronic disease.

What’s more, a digital intervention allows us to drive change at scale. Right now, we’re amassing one of the biggest data sets in the history of behavioral medicine, which our product team and health coaches are using to continually optimize our program for our participants.

But a lesson on its own won’t really move the needle. It’s all in the way it’s delivered (online, on the participant’s own terms), supported (with help from a coach and a group of peers who are facing the same challenges), and practiced (with smart technology that provides instant feedback). Seeing the pattern here? Everything works better together.

“Omada is different from the programs I’ve used in the past. YOU make all the decisions — no exact diet or exercise plans to follow. There are suggestions from the program, the coach, the other team members instead. Real people helping with real issues!”

–Margaret, 57, lost 10% of body weight.

Ask anyone who’s gone through a life-changing event, and they’ll tell you they couldn’t have done it without their support network. Having trusted confidants who can empathize with your struggle makes all the difference.

At Omada, we assemble a small cohort of peers, based on each participant’s geographic and demographic data. These peer groups go through the first 16 weeks of the program together, using the group message board to share victories, struggles, advice, understanding, and even engage in a little healthy competition. Group members hold each other up, and hold each other accountable.

Over 70,000 participants have enrolled in Omada so far, representing every state in the US. Our data has allowed us to optimize the right mix of people and personalities to maximize our participants’ experience.

And you guessed it: The support of your peers can be even more powerful in combination with all of the other elements of the program.

“Having the group discussions helped me realize that I wasn’t in this program alone. I had a whole group of people ‘just like me’ along with a health coach that would be there if I needed [them].”

–Matthew, 33, lost 22% of body weight.

Health coaches aren’t new. Maybe your company already offers coaching in its employee benefits package. And that’s great. But most traditional coaches tend to work with their clients via scheduled phone calls, say, once every week or two. Unfortunately, issues that need the support of a coach don’t rear their heads on such a regular schedule.

Omada’s health coaches are always just a private message away, and often interact daily with participants. They’re carefully trained, and located throughout the country to match our participant population. So they not only offer professional coaching on nutrition, fitness, sleep and stress management, they have insight on local factors that could impact our participants’ experience and success. (Let’s say it’s an unusually cool evening in Tucson. A health coach there might share info about a local trail run to a participant who has has been complaining about her gym.)

Omada’s health coaches invest heavily in establishing trust and empathy up front. That way, when a participant gets stuck and the coach steps in to offer support, their counseling is much more likely to be appreciated and heeded.

How do they know when to step in? Our data science engine surfaces patterns. Every log-in, every meal and snack recorded, every step counted, every lesson completed adds a valuable new data point for each participant that we can leverage in support of their experience.

Armed with this information, Omada coaches can personalize their communication based on each participant’s progress and what seems to work best for them. And our coaches don’t have to wait until a scheduled appointment to step in. They can do it in real time via direct private messaging.

“Omada cares. From day one I was paired with a health coach who offered advice, led a weekly lesson to teach me how to be a healthier person, and at times was just there to listen to the issues I was having.”

–Adam, 23, lost 15% of body weight

So how do all these components work together to make music that can really move people?

As data reveals obstacles or milestones on each participant’s path, Omada health coaches get a better idea for which elements of our program to dial up, and which to back off. And because everyone’s journey is unique, the health coach — powered by data — can create a unique symphony for each participant.

For instance, let’s say one of our participants is struggling to meet her exercise goals and skipping lunches during the workweek. In a private message to her health coach, she shares that she’s swamped at work with annual performance reviews and needs help figuring out how to make time to put her health first. Together, they brainstorm ways she can incorporate exercise into her workday. One idea is to schedule the reviews as walking meetings. This reminds her of a walking trail near her office, and now she has a plan as well as an accountability partner.

In that same group, during the same week, another participant’s data reveals that he’s hit a plateau in his weight-loss. He vents to his health coach about his lack of progress, even though he’s added an early morning workout to his routine. She looks at his weigh-in and meal tracking times and notices that he’s only getting about six hours of sleep per night. And his breakfasts have been much bigger and carb-laden after his workouts. They talk about strategies to get his sleep schedule back on track, like logging off electronic devices two hours before bed, and saving his workout for later in the day. Without the data and the personal interaction with his coach, this participant might never have thought to re-focus toward sleep.

Meanwhile, the group is learning about the power of protein in their weekly lesson. A few members start talking about how hard it can be to get enough protein into the day, and begin brainstorming recipes for protein-filled snacks. With easy food tracking, they’re snapping photos and sharing easy-to-make ideas with one another — leaning on each other’s experience to learn and grow, with a bit of help from technology.

Our health coaches would no sooner throw all of our program elements at our participants at once, than a conductor would direct all instruments to start playing loudly together at the same time. Both approaches would result in a cacophony that wouldn’t inspire anyone to do anything. (Except maybe leave.)

Omada integrates the best tools and techniques, in the right combinations, at the right moments, to enable each participant to take their own emotional, psychological, and physical voyage to lasting health. Such transformational music.

Omada Health

Written by

Inspiring and enabling people everywhere to live free of chronic disease. To learn more, visit www.omadahealth.com

Omada Health Stories

We help employers and health plans tackle chronic disease in the most engaging, effective, and scalable way possible. www.omadahealth.com

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