Reaching the Unreachable: A Personal Approach to Diabetes

As published by Huffington Post 1/15/14;


By David Weingard
Shock — is how I felt when I was first diagnosed with diabetes.

I had been training for an eight stage survival race and was in great physical shape. Suddenly I felt weak and lethargic and knew a visit to my physician was necessary. Even getting to the doctor”s office was a physical challenge. It was here where I learned that my drastic weight loss was not a result of athletic training, but instead my body failing to produce insulin. My body was starving itself and I was unaware!

I was in disbelief and looked for resources to help me understand. While there is plenty of information online, I found that it was very basic and didn”t explain to me how to live my own life with the disease. I also couldn”t find the personalized support I needed to manage my health, engage with my family and meet professional demands while living with diabetes.

As I rebuilt my life collecting information and support from wherever I could find it. I made a commitment to find a way to help the diabetes community, so I began racing Ironman triathlons to raise money for diabetes charities. What happened after that was incredible. People started emailing and calling me for advice. I only know about my diabetes and really don”t have the knowledge to help someone else with theirs! This is when I realized that I can assist others by making this a personal journey. By leveraging many positive professional relationships along the way, I began to personalize diabetes management by engaging diabetes educators countrywide with diabetes patients via technology. The ultimate goal is to help people lead rich and fulfilling lives with diabetes.

We are in a state of crisis, people need help, there are almost 26 million people with diabetes in the U.S. and another 79 million adults in the U.S. with pre-diabetes. The financial impact was $245 billion to employers, government and the individual with diabetes in 2012

We”re in this predicament for many reasons and it continues to escalate because diabetes is so complex and difficult to manage. Over 40 percent of patients prescribed a new diabetes medication stop taking it within the first few months. While there are helpful resources online and within communities, it is often challenging to find the relevant information. Also, the people who look for this information and support are the ones motivated to take care of their diabetes. Solving to effectively engage the unmotivated patients is where the big problem lies.

People with diabetes have different experiences, contributing to the People who stopped using can still feel strong cravings for the drug, sometimes even years later. complexity of managing an already multidimensional disease. I saw these differences in real-time as I had the rare opportunity to participate in focus groups comprised of people with diabetes of varying socio-economic and cultural groups. Interestingly enough I found myself relating to them. We had the same emotion when diagnosed: shock! There were so many beautiful and human moments as people shared their individual challenges and successes living with diabetes. There was also pain and a sense of resignation that diabetes was not going away and that they would need to find ways of coping with it… forever.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to learn from thought leaders who added to this pool of valuable guidance. Each mentor had incomparable perspectives on how to improve our business model and presentation. I look forward to their continued mentorship and the relationships I”ve gained from this experience.

David is founder and CEO of Fit4D, a company whose mission is to improve the lives of people with diabetes and other chronic conditions, worldwide. In his journey as someone with diabetes, David has been fortunate to meet many incredible people with diabetes and their families. It is David”s personal passion to share his experiences, knowledge and positive energy with the diabetes community. With over 20 years of experience in the technology sector at startup and public companies, David decided to devote his energies to helping people with diabetes. David can be reached via e-mail at

Fit4D is one of five semi-finalists in The Merck | Heritage Provider Network Innovation Challenge. The sponsors have called on entrepreneurs, data scientists, designers, health care providers, and big thinkers to create the products or services that will support patients with diabetes and/or heart disease in adhering to their care plans and ultimately improving health. Semi-finalists will be presenting their solutions at Demo Day on January 23rd in NYC. Check out their progress, watch their Demo Day presentations, and find additional open innovation challenges by visiting Health Data Challenges.

This blog series is produced in partnership with Health Data Challenges, creators of The Health Data Challenge Series, a formal initiative of the Health Data Consortium, powered by Luminary Labs. The platform seeks to foster the use of data to drive innovation that will ultimately transform health and healthcare through high-stakes innovation challenges. Learn more at

Follow David Weingard on Twitter:

Merck Heritage Provider Network Innovation Contest 5 Questions with Fit4D

5 Questions with…Fit4D

This post is part of a special “5 Questions with…” series, featuring Q&As with the semi-finalists in the Merck | Heritage Provider Network Innovation Challenge.

David Weingard - Fit4D. Semi-finalist in the Merck | Heritage provider network innovation challenge

David Weingardis the CEO and Founder of Fit4D – a personalized program that synthesizes workflow, data capture, device integration, and reporting-enabling personalized service delivery via coaches within its network. He has experienced first-hand the complexities of living life with diabetes and its challenges. Fit4D is one of five semi-finalists in the Merck | Heritage Provider Network Innovation Challenge competing for a $100,000 award. Learn more about Fit4D by tuning in to Demo Day on January 23rd.

 1.  What is your concept? Tell us about it in two sentences or less.

Fit4D solves for patients with poorly managed diabetes.  We use technology to make a personal diabetes educator (CDE) coach scalable and affordable.

2.  How did you hear about the Challenge and what prompted you to enter?

We learned about the challenge through Luminary Labs and appreciate the ‘real world’ approach they take to healthcare.  We entered as part of our mission to improve the lives of people with diabetes — it is our passion and reason for being.

3.  What have been your biggest successes and challenges in the last year?

Fit4D started with telephonic coaching, similar to a call center model.  We learned quickly that this method doesn’t scale.   We began to search for alternate ways to help patients including mobile or web-based apps.  Although there are some very cutting-edge apps we found that they worked for the motivated patients, though they are not the problem    It is important to use a real person to help motivate people, by building a therapeutic alliance, especially for those people who are not motivated or feeling very overwhelmed by their diabetes.

This is where the personal CDE coach comes in!   On to the amazing part; technology is at a point where we use it to scale our CDEs and reach more people   And, we communicate in the way patients want to communicate – across mediums such as email, text, online support groups, webinars, phone, Skype and our web platform.  This optimized mix of human and electronic touch points enable us to engage patients (the motivated and the unmotivated) and improve their health.

In the past year we’ve improved the way we measure results by integrating the data from payers/PBMs (e.g. for medication adherence) and medical devices (e.g. A1C kits, blood glucose meters).   Robust tracking and reporting on this data ensures that we deliver on key performance metrics and provides immediate validation.  It’s a true comprehensive patient support program.

4.  What is the main problem you are looking to solve with your solution?

We are solving for those having the biggest challenges with diabetes self-care, and giving them a helping hand when they need motivation or hit a bump in the road.  Ultimately giving a patient a much needed ‘high five’ when they stay on that path or providing personalized support that motivates them to overcome challenges.  (e.g. taking their medication).  Diabetes is hard; it’s an everyday thing, everyday!  Everyone with diabetes is different; not only coming from different social-economic and cultural backgrounds but also facing different hurdles – so the interventions must be personalized.

In addition to supporting patients getting healthier, we’re reducing healthcare costs, improving patient / provider communication, increasing medication adherence and overall improving the lives of those living with diabetes.  40% of the cost of diabetes is associated with those patents with A1C values above 9.   These high A1Cs put a patient at higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, neuropathy and circulation problems. All expensive to treat complications.

5.  Your team has entered into the Virtual Accelerator period, which includes a design, prototyping, and business modeling Boot Camp. What is the biggest insight you uncovered during Boot Camp?

The boot camp, especially the focus groups, reinforced how everyone with diabetes is different and that personal interventions will provide an immediate impact on the patient.  The virtual accelerator has helped us recognize our individual assets as a team and how to leverage them in many ways.

Make sure to register for Demo Day, taking place on January 23rd in New York City.  Click here for your free tickets!