Entrepreneur of the Week: David Weingard, Fit4D
Fit4D is a technology platform with intelligent scripting algorithms that enable Certified Diabetes Educators to increase capacity 5x to deliver personalized diabetes care via multiple communication methods.
We spoke to founder and CEO David Weingard about Fit4D and the opportunity he sees in the 50+ market.
Longevity Network: What does Fit4D do?
David Weingard: Fit4D’s mission is to improve the health of people with diabetes through technology-enabled services delivered by highly qualified certified diabetes educators (CDEs) who are passionate about empowering and inspiring people toward optimal health and lifestyle. We serve pharmaceutical companies with a branded drug or device looking to improve medication adherence, and payers seeking to improve health outcomes.
Support is tailored to an individual’s personal needs and technology is leveraged for scale and accessibility. Fit4D CDEs engage patients in a personalized plan that addresses the individual barriers they face. Sessions are scheduled to fit the individual’s schedule, preferred method of communication, and language (Spanish and English available). Expert coaching includes education about the condition, nutrition and fitness, techniques to improve medication adherence, advice to overcome psychosocial barriers, and more.
LN: Can you tell us about your platform and how it works?
DW: Unlike apps or call centers, Fit4D optimizes the mix between technology and clinicians to improve health outcomes in an affordable manner. Fit4D supports patients on their diabetes journeys by creating behavior-changing engagement experiences. Our technology platform deploys CDEs efficiently to provide one-on-one coaching that fits the patient’s schedule, with intelligent scripting algorithms for quickly identifying and overcoming patient barriers.
LN: What opportunity did you see that you wanted to address with the creation of Fit4D?
DW: I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 36 when I was an executive at Microsoft. I searched for guidance on how to handle the many complexities of diabetes including the need to balance medication, nutrition and exercise regimens on a 24×7 basis. There was a lot of information on the internet, but it was very general. Thanks to coaching and guidance from a CDE, I learned how to successfully navigate my diabetes and become productive in my personal and professional life. My experience receiving meaningful education and support from a CDE sparked the idea to leverage technology to scale the reach of expert diabetes educators with Fit4D.
LN: What shortcomings did existing diabetes platforms have?
DW: At Fit4D, we are trying to help all patients with diabetes and have been especially successful engaging those with poorly controlled diabetes. Traditional ways of addressing this problem include the use of call center support with non-clinicians creating an impersonal and minimally valuable patient experience, and web-based support, including apps, which lack the human-touch entirely. In-person support has shown to be effective, but expensive and difficult to scale. Also, there are a lot of apps out there, but they have been more effective with the more motivated patients who are proactively downloading them.
LN: Who are your users?
DW: Our users are individuals with diabetes. The larger return for investment for our clients is when we work with patients who are new to a diabetes treatment regimen, device, or medication. Our users have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. We have also recently started working with a payer population of people with pre-diabetes.
LN: How did you assemble your team?
DW: All Fit4D clinicians interacting with members are Certified Diabetes Educators. They are specially trained dietitians, nurses, exercise physiologists, pharmacists and social workers that work tirelessly on behalf of their patients. We recently announced that Fit4D will have the largest team of CDEs in the country next year. We hire exceptional CDEs who are outstanding patient motivators and comfortable using technology to change the world.
LN: How has what happened with Fit4D differed from what you envisioned would happen?
DW: Eight years ago when the health IT landscape was in its very early stages, raising capital was a challenge. We learned that the only way to succeed was to start demonstrating results with paying clients. I pitched to the CEOs of leading diabetes brands and signed Fit4D’s first client, Bayer Diabetes. Along with some angel capital from friends/family, Fit4D financed its innovation years by delivering paid services to leading brands (including GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Humana, Weight Watchers). Having to demonstrate results early on taught us the importance of having a value-based offering.
LN: What do you wish you had known before developing Fit4D?
DW: When we started the company, we were selling our services directly to consumers. However, we realized that to maximize the reach and impact of the solution, we had to set up a B2B model, selling the technology-enabled Fit4D service directly to pharmaceutical companies, payers, and ACOs.
LN: What most excites you about the health technology market?
DW: There are so many exciting innovations out there, and we’ve learned that the most effective interventions are ones that create lasting behavior change and this can only be achieved with a human touch, while scaling patient reach through technology. I’m always on the lookout for innovations that achieve these goals.
It is also exciting to see the convergence of interests within our clients (pharma and payers) as delivering value-based outcomes becomes especially important to the market.
LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the diabetes market?
DW: Getting a contract with a pharmaceutical company or payer is no easy task. This industry can be slow to engage with innovation because of regulatory and safety concerns. My advice to startups who want to target this market is to offer innovative, performance based pilots to get going. If entrepreneurs are willing to commit to performance, with a portion of fees paid only if results are achieved, pharmaceutical companies and payers will be more likely to get started.
LN: Where do you see Fit4D five years from now?
DW: We will deliver a form of Fit4D to everyone with diabetes on Earth. We will also leverage our platform to deliver scalable patient programs in other disease states where the trusted relationship of a clinical expert, combined with technology to effectively scale, will result in improved patient health.
LN: What health or wellness technology do you hope exists by the time you retire?
DW: My passion for improving the health of people with diabetes will probably discourage retirement, though I’m excited about the advances in predictive analytics and use of devices. As an example, in the diabetes space we see an exciting opportunity for companies to capture blood glucose and adherence information from patients and proactively use this data to alert a patient when they might hit a low based on their historical trends. I personally wear a pump and monitor, every day my devices are capturing hundreds of data points, but we don’t have a solution today that uses those data points to predict when I’ll spike. I hope that one day, our CDEs can use this information to help translate the wealth of data for people with diabetes.
LN: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
DW: Helping people with diabetes is the passion and purpose of everyone on the Fit4D team!
Founder and CEO, David Weingard, is a diabetes patient himself who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, at the age of 36, while training for a survival race. A veteran of numerous running and triathlons races (including Ironman triathlons consisting of a 2.4M swim, 112M bike and 26.2M run), David committed to rebuild his life and provide positive energy to the diabetes community while coping with the condition on a 24×7 basis. Beginning with shorter races, he gradually learned how to successfully race triathlons with diabetes and within a year completed the famous Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco Bay. He then began racing Ironman triathlons again – though this time working through the delicate balance between insulin, food, nutrition and exercise. Through these races, David has fundraised extensively on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) New York City Chapter.
David’s personal experience receiving meaningful education and support from a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) sparked the idea for Fit4D to leverage technology to scale the patient reach of adherence and outcome improvement programs for pharmaceutical, payer and provider organizations. In 2008, David left Microsoft to found Fit4D, building on his career as an executive in the technology sector.
As the founder and CEO of Fit4D, David received the PM360 Elite Entrepreneur award for transforming the diabetes landscape. Under David’s leadership PM360 also named Fit4D one of the top innovative healthcare startups in 2015, while ePharma named Fit4D its 2016 audience winner of the Disruptive Technology Showcase and Innovations Challenge.