Livongo to launch voice interface, free medication program; announces Applied Health Signals framework

The company's strategy to "cut out the noise" of healthcare data involves aggregation, interpretation, application, and iteration.
By Jonah Comstock
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Livongo's hypertension management offering.

Chronic disease management startup Livongo announced a handful of new offerings and partnerships this week, all organized around the theme of “Applied Health Signals,” a framework for thinking about the technologies and capabilities Livongo offers.

“Health Signals is really an enabling technology,” Amar Kendale, Livongo’s chief product officer, told MobiHealthNews. “Something that is part of all of our products and a place where we house a lot of different components and capabilities in order to deliver something new and different, and then we ease it into the product experience our users have, whether they’re managing diabetes, pre-diabetes, overweight or obesity.”

The new offerings include voice-enabled blood pressure monitoring, a new program that allows Livongo members to get medications for free via co-pay waivers and a new data partnership with medication adherence tech company Medisafe.

The voice offering allows the user to interact with Livongo’s recently announced cellular-enabled blood pressure monitoring system via voice. Livongo’s platform will be able to deliver it’s health nudges — small, actionable units of health advice — via voice.

“How we communicate is where we see this tremendous potential for voice,” Kendale said. “The other place we see the potential for voice is back at the top of the funnel, which is ‘Can we ask you for information?’ ‘Can we have a conversation with you at the moment you’re taking your blood pressure?’ That will … help us to speed up collecting more data and increasing what we know about you.”

The co-pay waivers for medications are being delivered as an incentive to help persuade patients to check their blood pressure or blood sugar regularly. Livongo connects with all the various stakeholders to make that work.

“What’s really exciting about that is it provides a really powerful access benefit to members. It helps to offset a cost that’s otherwise inhibiting what they really want, which is to take care of their health, and it’s helping us to drive better clinical outcomes, creating a virtuous cycle of feedback where we can see that they’re taking their medications, we can see whether they’re checking their blood pressure or blood sugar and if it changes we’re able to nudge them in the right direction. This is a good example of the kind of programs and features and products that we think are going to be critical for us to bring into the market to really fulfill the promise of applied health signals and to start breaking down this community healthcare problem by taking out the issues of complexity and cost.”

Both the medication incentive program and the voice interface will launch in 2019.

What’s the impact?

While skeptics have painted Applied Health Signals as little more than a marketing ploy, Kendale said Livongo is all in on the strategy, which it sees as a remedy for a cluttered digital health ecosystem.

“What we’ve seen is an enormous number of options,” Kendale said. “There’s devices, apps, all kinds of options that, from our perspective, are creating clutter in the healthcare marketplace. And for consumers, for members as we call them, increasing the complexity, the confusion, the costs. Where Applied Health Signals comes in is as an opportunity to silence the noise, to cut through all of that with services Livongo has been bringing to market that are designed to do all of what it takes to deliver a great consumer experience that is going to drive healthcare outcomes.”

“Health signals” refers to all the various kinds of health data that can be gathered from consumers. Livongo’s framework is built around doing four things with that data. Abbreviated as AI+AI, they are: aggregating the data (or collecting it in the first place), interpreting it, applying it (that is, using the data to make changes), and iterating — continuing to improve the processes through which this is accomplished.

What’s the trend?

Founded in 2014 by former Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman, Livongo has grown from a diabetes management startup to a company focused more broadly on chronic condition management, and it continues to expand to new areas.

Livongo has been busy this year, starting with $105 million funding deal and the acquisition shortly thereafter of weight loss company Retrofit, both in April. In September, the company announced a deal with Abbott to offer the Freestyle Libre Pro to some customers and, at Health 2.0, announced cellular-enabled blood pressure monitoring to serve older populations that might not be equipped with smartphones. Along with that announcement came a redesign of the company’s patient app as well.

“What we’re interested in doing is opening up a conversation with our healthcare ecosystem,” Kendale said. “This is a new era. This is an era where we’re suffering from an abundance of riches and the solutions are really going to come from silencing that noise. We’re looking for partners who can help us do that and can offer something to either aggregate, interpret, apply or iterate on what needs to happen in healthcare so we can deliver better solutions to our members. ... I look at it as kind of an invitation to the ecosystem to partner with us.”