Diabetes app 'One Drop' drops with digerati backing

One Drop co-founder Jeff Dachis

Digital marketing veteran Jeff Dachis wants to bring the digital revolution to healthcare--and he knows firsthand that healthcare needs it. Co-founder of one of the first digital marketing agencies, Razorfish, back in the '90s, Dachis was stunned by the lack of comprehensive tech solutions for people with diabetes after he was diagnosed with Type 1 disease in 2013.

"Diabetes is a data-driven disease; ask anyone who has it, it's math all day," he said.

After a hypoglycemic incident where Dachis passed out alone in an elevator after going for a run--what he now calls a "rookie" mistake--he realized he could help himself and others live better with diabetes by applying technology. So he did what any digital entrepreneur would--he created a company and built a solution. His team recently launched One Drop, a consumer-centric platform that uses cloud and mobile computing to help diabetics not only manage their own condition, but also learn from others.

Thanks to the increasing number of diabetes patients, competition from new drugs, and the ongoing move to patient lifestyle solutions, interest in diabetes apps, and overall digital management, is intense. While drugmakers have some skin in the game--Merck ($MRK) has invested in digital Type 2 diabetes management platform WellDoc, and Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Sanofi ($SNY) both have apps--the largest number of apps for people with diabetes come from independent developers like Dachis.

There are more than 1,000 apps already, with a wide range of services from calorie and exercise logs to glucose administration and monitoring. According to a Research2Guidance report last year, 65% of the diabetes app market is owned by the top 14 apps. But it's a still an untapped market, with only 1.2% of diabetics who own smartphones using any diabetes app. Some of the more popular apps are Glucose Buddy from Azumio, Logbook from mySgr and Glooko (which lists Abbott ($ABT) and Roche ($RHHBY) as partners on its website)--and like One Drop, they were created by people living with diabetes or diagnosed with prediabetes.

That points to an overall frustration with traditional options, as well as a lost opportunity by pharma to engage the growing market of patients. As patients lock in on these current platforms, the less likely they will be to switch data and services even if pharma comes up with better options down the road.

The first One Drop product launched is a mobile app, also available for Apple Watch, which logs glucose levels, food intake, exercise and insulin all in one place. It also allows unidentified, anonymized data to be shared with others. For instance, someone looking at a chain-restaurant menu might use One Drop to see what happened to other people's blood sugar when they ate the same burger and fries.

"I want to know what happens when other people go for a run or how they go to celebrations and manage to eat cake. I want to know how other people live with diabetes," Dachis said. "The sense of loneliness in diabetes is profound, yet there is nothing out there to connect people in the way One Drop does."

In the works for 2016 is a highly stylized Bluetooth-enabled glucose meter complete with cool leather case and metal test strips vial. The One Drop meter and strips will come bundled with a monthly subscription service that he described as affordable.

Just a few weeks after launch, several thousand people have already downloaded and are using One Drop, he said. His plan to market the platform is all digital and will follow the lead of its user- and influencer-created content. He believes as patients adopt and value One Drop, doctors and insurers will follow. He's going it alone with private venture funding for now, but is open to future partnerships.

And Dachis doesn't plan to stop his healthcare digital charge at diabetes. His plan is to apply the One Drop data-driven and patient-centric platform to other chronic care conditions. "We think we will be able to take what we learn and apply that across other conditions," he said. "I'm the first to admit we do not have all the answers, and we're approaching the space with a lot of humility. We're listening a lot."

- read the diabetes app report