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Livongo's complex recipe for digital health success

Livongo isn’t the first company in the digital health space to IPO — at least, depending on how you define “digital health” it isn’t. But even if your definition is broad, Livongo stands out as one of the first companies to go public that’s really focusing on delivering healthcare, not just wellness, using consumer digital technologies.

“People expect us to represent this whole new industry that we have, in some way, created,” Livongo Executive Chairman Glen Tullman told MobiHealthnews. “A number of people have written about the fact that, while people have been talking about consumer digital health for a long time, nobody’s ever really demonstrated if you can build a viable company around it. We’re really the first to do that.”

Tullman will be taking the stage next week at Health 2.0 for a fireside chat with yours truly, where we’ll be discussing the significance of Livongo’s IPO as well as Tullman’s vision for the future of American healthcare, as laid out in his 2018 book On Our Terms.

“What we need to fix with healthcare — and this is counterintuitive — is healthcare is done to us,” Tullman said. “The people we need to put in charge are the people who have the chronic condition.”

Livongo’s mission and business plan are predicated not on especially novel technology — nearly every piece of tech the company uses is licensed from someone else or an in-house version of something available elsewhere. Instead, the company is focused on using technology selectively to fundamentally change the traditional approach to chronic care management.

“I literally have a slide saying, ‘If you’re talking about technology then you’ve already lost,’” Tullman said. “If I ask you what chipset is in your phone, you’d look at me like I was crazy. I probably have no idea. What you know is the phone solves the problem that you have. What we’re really creating, and we’ve always talked about this, is we’re creating a new kind of experience for people who have chronic conditions, and that’s a really empowering experience that puts them in charge.”

Technology and patient empowerment are two pieces that Livongo brings together. A third is high-touch human engagement. And a fourth is a smart use of data.

“Fitbit and others who say they want to be in healthcare, they have a nice device,” Tullman said. “Apple has a nice device. But if you want to take care of the whole person, you need humans to talk to and you need really deep data science that says when to call them, how to interact with them, and those sorts of things.”

At Health 2.0, we’ll dive into the practical implications of this approach beyond Livongo itself and talk about how the right mix of technology, human touch, data and patient empowerment can create a blueprint for a true Health 2.0 world — one that also begins to eat away at the big problems like cost of care in the U.S. and inequality in access to care. Don’t miss the conversation at 9 a.m. PT on Wednesday, September 18th, in Santa Clara, California.

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