Livongo founder says the time for 'piloting' is over

When telehealth platform Teladoc and chronic care management program Livongo merged last year, the $18.5 billion deal rattled the windows of the digital health industry.  

At the time, Livongo founder and at the time executive chairman Glen Tullman said the goal was to provide a one-stop shop for healthcare without losing out on clinician empathy.  

Now, Tullman – who was also CEO of Allscripts for 15 years and helped take it public – has moved on to yet another new healthcare venture: Transcarent, a platform aimed at overhauling employer self-insurance.

“We want to partner with health systems across the country,” said Tullman at the AVIA Virtual Network Summit this week.  

“We think health systems are not the problem; they’re the solution. The problem is in the middle,” Tullman continued.   

During a fireside chat with AVIA CEO and president Linda Finkel, Tullman pointed to what he saw as the disconnect between consumer-facing digital companies, such as Amazon and Uber, and healthcare.  

Apple, for example, doesn’t limit their company – or even their products – to a single function.   

“Most younger people don’t consider an iPhone a phone,” he said. “What they’ve done is created an experience that people really value.”     

Only in healthcare, he said, do providers present you with inconvenient appointments – “exactly when you have to work” – at sometimes faraway locations.  

And meanwhile, costs keep increasing.  

“If you’re a health system in the market and your competitor is better than you,” he said, “you can’t try to hide it.” 

Instead, he suggested, innovate to fix the problem – or risk losing out. “At every moment, you’re dropping behind or you’re getting better,” he said.

He pointed to a fragmented system that can lead to confusion and inefficiencies. His son, for example, gets insulin to treat his Type 1 diabetes from one provider, a pump from another and a continuous glucose monitor from a third. He’s insured by a fourth company.

“And that’s just to stay healthy,” said Tullman – if anything goes wrong, his son has to be hospitalized. 

“How could that possibly make sense?” he wondered.

The way Tullman sees it, we’re at a pivotal moment in digital health.   

“I believe the next 18 months will define the next five years,” he said. “If you’re not moving now, you’ve got to stop piloting. You’ve got to stop studying. You’ve got to jump in,” he said.

Overall, he said, the people who matter in the industry are those being served: patients and their families.  

“How do we empower people to live healthier lives?” he asked.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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