For Virta Health, National Diabetes Awareness Month Lasts All Year

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, an initiative led by the American Diabetes Association to educate people on the risks and treatment options for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is now one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States, and the epidemic continues to grow.

More than 30 million people are living with type 2 diabetes in the U.S. alone (that’s 10% of the population!), and another 86 million adults are living with prediabetes. The disease contributes to more than 250,000 deaths per year, while costing the nation more than $300B annually.

The statistics are daunting, but there is good news! Highwire client Virta Health is on a mission to reverse type 2 diabetes in 100 million people by 2025, and they are succeeding! Virta Health has developed the first treatment to safely and sustainably reverse type 2 diabetes without medications or surgery.

Among enrolled patients in the company’s clinical trial at one year, 60% achieved diabetes reversal in as little as 10 weeks and 94% of patients on insulin either reduced their usage or eliminated it altogether.

See how it works

This month, Virta released exciting data from their pilot with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Diabetes prevalence is even higher among US veterans than the average adult population, affecting nearly 25% of VA patients. In the pilot program, 84% of veteran patients on the Virta Treatment for 90 days achieved glycemic outcomes below the diabetes threshold or at least a one-point drop in HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar).

Results of the Virta Treatment extend beyond diabetes reversal to other areas of metabolic and cardiovascular health, with sustained improvements in blood pressure, inflammation, liver function, and BMI. These outcomes are bringing life-changing freedom from the debilitating physical and emotional effects of diabetes to thousands of people. Virta’s patient stories are proof.

We’re proud to support and amplify Virta’s mission to reverse diabetes not just in November, but throughout the year. 

Rock Health Summit 2019: A Look Into the Future of Digital Health

Last month, Rock Health hosted their annual two-day summit in San Francisco which brought together more than 700 diverse people from technology, medicine, policy, and beyond to tackle healthcare’s most challenging problems. 

Industry leaders in the digital health space participated in panels and keynote speeches discussing how far the industry has come and where it’s headed. A few members of Highwire’s digital health practice were lucky enough to attend and compiled a short list of the most interesting trends heading into 2020.

The New Competitive Landscape in Healthcare

Executives from Healthineers, Salesforce and Sutter Health came together to talk about their digital strategies and where the competition within the digital health landscape are heating up. It’s no secret that most tech companies are trying to enter the health space, but why?

The panelists discussed that beyond heath being a gigantic business and accounting for 1/6 of the economy, some of the most important technologies come from the health space and tech companies know they can help contribute. Whether their contribution is providing an app to make things more accessible, providing AI tools to aggregate data or providing security for data, they know they can help.

In terms of competition, the biggest race the panelists are seeing is telemedicine versus traditional healthcare providers. Years ago you would go to your physician to get diagnosed or treated and now we’re seeing retail companies like Amazon entering the space who can contribute and offer services to people.

Key takeaway: Competition is evolving outside of traditional healthcare providers and it’s new players in the space like Amazon that will continue to shake up the healthcare landscape.

Healthcare Techlash is Here

Led by CNBC’s Chrissy Farr, this panel included executives from American Medical Association, Verily and Google discussing what the healthcare techlash is and how companies are dealing with it. Unanimously, it was agreed upon that it is affecting every aspect of our lives and it all comes down to one thing: data. 

There’s an ongoing debate between tech and healthcare companies as to who should own the data and what data should be shared. The panelists emphasized that we need to build that bridge tech companies and healthcare so that we’re benefiting the patient — data allows us to fully understand a patient.

Key takeaway: We need to create partnerships between physicians, healthcare and tech developers to better treat patients. Without these partnerships, crucial data will be kept from professionals who need it and patients will not be getting the care they need.

The Next Frontier of Digital Drug Discovery

Arguably the most heated panel of the event, executives from Insitro, the FDA and Ciitizen discussed pharma’s investment in digital tools, where impact is today, and what we can expect the R&D pipeline to look like in the not-too-distant future. At the focus of this conversation yet again, was data. However, this discussion focused on high-quality data and how this is the key to creating new drugs that will benefit patients. 

What made this discussion so lively was having the opinions from two executives at tech companies and the opinions from the FDA. Both tech executives discussed how there needs to be a shift in drug discovery, instead of mass-producing drugs, create drugs that appeal to a smaller population and treat more specific cases. To which the FDA said that in order to do this they need to build new technical infrastructure to scale for the future and prioritize individualized and tailored drugs.

Key Takeaway: Data is to creating and producing drugs for the future — without high-quality data the industry will struggle to keep up with the demand for new drugs that benefit patients.

Hearing from industry leaders with different backgrounds and their points of view on where the pain points are now and the endless possibilities of digital health companies in the future was extremely valuable. The biggest takeaways from this year’s summit and what we’ll be looking out for in the digital health space would be the need for partnerships between tech companies and healthcare, the need for high-quality data. 

Let us know if you’d like to connect with Highwire PR to talk through how communication will change the game for the digital health industry. Contact digitalhealth@highwirepr.com  for more details.

World Heart Day 2019: Making a Difference around CVD

World Heart Day 2019, an awareness day led by the World Heart Federation, wrapped on Sunday, September 29, which aims to bring awareness around Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). More than 17,000,000 people die from the disease every year, and in the U.S. alone, nearly half of all adult Americans are diagnosed with it. World Heart Day’s 2019 objective was to have participants either acknowledge a “heart hero” or share a promise, either through an event or on social media, on how to live a longer, better, hearty healthy life. 

Two Highwire clients, HeartFlow and AliveCor, participated in this event and created campaigns on Twitter to showcase promises towards heart health. We’ve included details around these efforts below. 

  • HeartFlow, a digital health company uniquely positioned at the intersection of advanced artificial intelligence and healthcare to transform how heart disease is diagnosed and treated, showcased five promises from their employees on Twitter. These promises ranged from healthy eating habits to regular cardiovascular activities. HeartFlow and Highwire upleveled the message by creating a unique graphic showcasing employees making the World Heart Day symbol and social posts were scheduled throughout the day with the designated hashtag #WorldHeartDay. As a result, these posts received a total of 28 pieces of engagement. 

Tweet from HeartFlow around #WorldHeartDay

  • AliveCor, the leader in FDA-cleared consumer electrocardiogram technology, showcased their recent partnership with Olympic icon, Mark Spitz. He recently shared his Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) diagnosis and he’s using his story to promote heart health and showcase how KardiaMobile offers people an affordable, accurate ECG that they can use anytime, anywhere. Similar to HeartFlow, Mark shared his promise to spread heart health awareness by growing back his famous moustache to show support. Leading up to and on September 29, he shared his progress through video and pictures to update followers of his progress. These efforts resulted in 541 pieces of engagement in total. 

Tweet from Mark Spitz around #WorldHeartDay

We’re proud to support and amplify our clients message and to make a difference in the lives of those affected with CVD. Interested in learning how Highwire can help your company stand out in the busy digital health landscape ? Reach out to us at digitalhealth@highwirepr.com

Highwire CES 2019: Industry Trends, Gadgets and Gizmos

CES 2019

Robo-sharks. 8K televisions. A machine that makes fresh-baked bread. We came, we saw, we conquered all of CES 2019 — and a few weeks later, we’re still dreaming of some of the latest and greatest in tech innovations! The Highwire team reports back to you with the trends that stood out to us the most (with a few cool gadgets here and there):

Madison Moore, Digital Strategist
Smart home design has moved from fantasy to reality for consumers. Everything from smart wine refrigerators (to help you perfectly pair your roasted chicken dinner with a Chardonnay) to smart toilets (yes, that’s a thing), to alarm systems and connected kitchen devices were front and center at CES 2019. What’s impressive is how many of these smart home devices are working in tandem together, controlled by smartphones and Alexa/Google. The emphasis here is not on robots and smart devices taking over your home. Rather, they can help you cut down on the little things so you can spend more time with friends and family. The downside? A lot of this technology is not yet available in the United States, although reports say that most of the tech is easy to modify for U.S. markets. It’s safe to say we might have fully connected homes and apartments in the not-so-distant future (and I’ll be the first person in line to purchase that smart wine fridge…).

There was also a strong focus on mobility at CES 2019. Of course, there were some sexy, futuristic smart cars to ogle over (think: the rosy-gold futuristic BMW Vision iNEXT), but the real discussions around smart cities and smart communities were what Highwire was after. At the forefront of the discussion around autonomous and self-driving vehicles was safety, privacy, and policy. How will Congress take action to create policies, especially as things become more connected and we begin rolling out this technology to the general public and not just test subjects? Companies like Samsung, Waymo, and Verizon believe that America is in a leading position on connected and autonomous vehicles, but there needs to be bipartisan consensus and some sort of congressional infrastructure legislation in place to bring them to the masses: safely.

Sarah Koniniec, Account Manager
I thought one of the more interesting topics was the very sudden disillusionment (or rather – reality check) with 5G. In the weeks leading up to CES, we saw a significant groundswell around 5G thanks to the Verizon keynote, as well as a myriad of to-be-announced products claiming to be 5G ready.

If you ask the major U.S. telecom companies, they’ll tell you 5G has arrived. That’s not really the case though, and we saw this play out on a very public stage. *grabs popcorn* We saw both Verizon and AT&T claiming to be first to 5G, while KT argues that a robot in South Korea is its first 5G customer. We saw AT&T updating phones with a fake 5G icon, and almost immediately we saw John Legere (T-Mobile’s CEO) clapback on Twitter. And all of this arguing about what 5G is (or isn’t) doesn’t bode well for consumers who are looking for faster connectivity, lower latency, and a seamless experience from device to device.

I’ve long been saying that 5G will be America’s next big infrastructure project, and I think in the next two years we’ll start to see this play out in a major way. The private sector will need to rely heavily on the public sector if we’re going to bring improved connectivity to the masses. But working closely with politicians and government agencies will be a challenge for many large tech companies that are not feeling the love from Washington right now. Things like working with the FCC to open up additional spectrum, or working with city planners to map out smart cities enabled by 5G, are crucial for setting up the infrastructure that will encourage widespread 5G adoption.

When you combine the power of 5G technology with a bunch of other technologies that are also evolving at the same time, many of which we saw at CES — from autonomous vehicles to augmented and virtual reality, to smart home and IoT trinkets — you’ve got capabilities that can absolutely transform the way consumers live and work. But for now, we’re not ready.

Sophia Gribbs, Business Development Coordinator
A major topic of conversation at CES this year was data privacy. Apple, a brand that usually doesn’t have a presence at the conference, made an impossible-to-miss jab at its competitors. A massive billboard overlooking Google and Amazon booths at CES read, “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned our data “is being weaponized us with military efficiency” at the Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners held annually in Europe.

At a CES panel about American privacy regulations in a post-GDPR world, former House representative Darrell Issa discussed data privacy with industry leaders. The FTC does not have a best practices document, and the panel agreed the obligation is on the Commission for further guidance. When discussing whether the United States should adopt GDPR, the consensus was that human rights should be protected and that we should set a baseline for what data rules should be. Issa emphasized the industry has to lead because “Congress will not get it right.” A state-by-state solution for data laws was proposed for a harmonized nation.

Personally, I admired the emphasis on wellness this year in Vegas. Yes, Royole’s foldable phone, HYPERVSN’s 3-D holographics and LG’s rollable OLED TVs are quite alluring. But the technology that directly impacts one’s health and understanding of one’s body has the capacity to greatly improve the quality of life.

Omron’s HeartGuide smartwatch measures blood pressure to allow for continuous monitoring at home. Stanley Black & Decker unveiled Pria, the home care companion that can serve medication and act upon voice commands. Pria features a camera, speaker and microphone so caregivers and family members can administer care in real-time. TouchPoint provides wearables for stress release with haptic vibrations at different intensities. Philips showcased a number of SmartSleep technologies to better understand sleep problems and to identify solutions.

Walking around the massive trade show floor is bound to make anyone hungry! Impossible Foods debuted its Impossible Burger 2.0, a patty that identically mimics the look, texture and taste of beef. The food truck even gave out free burgers so conference attendees could taste for themselves. In the Technology’s Innovators and Disruptors supersession, Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown cited his motivation originates from focusing on the most important problem he thought he could solve.

These brands combine science and tech to take a stab at improving consumers’ general well-being. I look forward to watching healthcare technology continue to take center stage in 2019!

Digital Health Q&A with Buzzfeed’s Stephanie Lee

With leaders like Apple continuing to invest heavily in consumer health and wellness technology and a slew of new health-focused upstarts popping up every day, digital health is white-hot. To chat about the trends affecting the industry—and what’s next on the horizon—Highwire sat down with Buzzfeed’s senior technology reporter and resident expert on all things digital health Stephanie Lee for a quick Q&A on what’s coming next.

What do you see as the “next big thing” in digital health?

There are a couple of things on the horizon. I’m really personally interested in genetic testing, genomics and in seeing how it will become more and more a part of mainstream healthcare. The price of testing has dropped a lot and it’s become affordable for normal people. Startups like 23andMe and Ancestry DNA are collecting DNA and sharing results. But there are so many more possibilities for what people can learn and what traditional healthcare providers can do—this is only the beginning. It would be really interesting to see genomics incorporated more into a normal doctor’s visit, like seeing what a doctor can do based on patient DNA. That’s sort of begun but there’s more room for mainstream adoption.

What excites you most about digital health? What drives your interest?

I think it’s always just so interesting to see technologies that have been adopted in other industries—banking, communication with friends, transportation—making their way into health. I’m always interested in seeing how these technologies can transform people’s lives for the better and give people all kinds of data about their own bodies that people didn’t have access to a decade ago.

Today, you can track anything and everything about yourself, and access it on the go. That didn’t exist a decade ago. I’m always looking to see proof that things are working, as opposed to just the hype. Seeing that people are able to interpret the data and put it to good use versus just being overwhelmed. I’m also watching what huge, powerful tech companies like Apple and Google do in health and biotech—whether they’re inventing new medical devices or allowing researchers to do studies through phones—and if those projects are actually working.

What are the trends you’re sick of hearing about?

I wouldn’t say “sick of,” but the wearables world has changed a lot. When I started covering it, it was thought that consumer fitness wearables would be the end-all be-all of digital health. And many of them are useful, but there have been so many acquisitions of the smaller trackers, like Misfit or Runtastic, by larger companies and athletic companies. There aren’t going to be as many trackers on the market as people thought there were. It seems like it has peaked; everyone who’s wanted to try one has tried one. There will be more medical usage, though. More medical applications and trackers regulated by the FDA are coming down the pipeline.

What’s the biggest challenge for digital health innovators?

Proving that something works. The big challenge in “normal” consumer technology is that you put out a product, you test it, you figure out what works and doesn’t work. You can make changes and iterate without consequences. Health has a backward timeline. If you’re putting something out that goes beyond a wellness use, something people rely on for medical use or healthcare, you need to prove out of the gate that there’s evidence behind it. Otherwise, the stakes are too high.

You see that tension a lot—tech entrepreneurs who come over to healthcare are surprised by how long it takes to prove something, how long it takes to turn a paper into an actually workable business model. They want to get right to market but it’s not always doable. It’s hard to match health outcomes with revenue streams. Just because something makes money doesn’t mean it works. Companies are trying to reconcile those two.

Do you see any rising hotspots for digital health innovation in the U.S. or globally?

Definitely, Boston and to an extent New York. There’s also San Diego or LA.

Do you think it’s easier or harder to start a digital health company in San Francisco/Silicon Valley than some of those other locations?

Obviously, there’s so much brainpower here—established research universities, an established biotech/pharma hub, and, on the tech side, everything from VCs to software engineers. Resource-wise, it’s an ideal place to be. Getting off the ground, you face the same challenges as any other tech company—it’s expensive, it’s hard to find office space, there’s competition for talent. The challenges here are the same for any tech startup but the resources are plentiful. And there are lots of incubators and accelerators geared toward that. If you’re going to start a startup in the space, you should be here or expect to travel here a lot.

Want to learn more about the digital health landscape? Check out TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr’s take on the Highwire blog here.

Gearing up for Rock Health Summit: Digital Health Q&A with TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr

Next week leaders in technology, medicine and policy will come together at Rock Health Summit’s digital health conference to discuss healthcare’s most challenging problems. In anticipation of the event, Highwire sat down with TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr, whose inbox is flooded daily with digital health pitches from PR pros. Sarah is moderating the panel “Virtual Reality: Just What The Doctor Ordered?” and we asked her what she’s excited about leading into the show and what’s hot and what’s not in digital health.

What are you most looking forward to seeing at Rock Health Summit this year?

One of my passions is biotech. I’m looking forward to hearing about thSarah Burhoughts on genomics and how microorganisms are being used to grow different things. I also want to hear how creative people can get with pharmaceutical drugs and materials. I think another interesting topic is telemedicine, or how we can move medical care inside the home. Right now there are so many solutions where you can speak to your doctor and not go into the hospital, and I want to see how those solutions can evolve.

Are there any digital health industry trends that you expect to be big in five years?

Like I mentioned, biotech is exploding – specifically in the areas of genetic manipulation and gathering data. In the future I think we’ll be able to pull insights out to identify the things that contribute to cancer and testing for diabetes in your genetic makeup. Right now nothing really does that and there are so many problems and cures to find.

What trends are you tired of hearing about?

I’m not interested in B2B enterprise SaaS solutions or HIPPA compliance. Right now everyone is trying to create their own platform rather than fix the bigger problem.

What’s the biggest challenge in digital health?

One of the biggest problems is that people don’t have enough information on medical costs or medicines that might be better for them. Basically there isn’t enough information shared with patients from doctors.

Do you see any rising hotspots for digital health innovation in the U.S?

There is no other place like Silicon Valley. Think about it, there are scientists, programmers, inventors, investors etc., all at “ground zero” for innovation. However outside of Silicon Valley other hotspots that are on the rise include San Diego and Boston which both have a booming biotech scene.

If you’re attending Rock Health Summit make sure to say hello to our Highwire folks on the ground and let us know in the comments what you’re excited to see at this year’s conference.

Written by Morgan Mathis, an account director in Los Angeles and Lauren Kido, a senior account associate in San Francisco