Last week I had the opportunity to attend the 2016 Medtronic Diabetes Advocate Forum in Northridge, CA. This was the first time I have been invited to such an event and I found it to be a great experience. The advocacy power in the room was palpable with representatives from 5 Latin America countries, 2 from Canada, and 14 from all over the US. I was proud to be the one with gray hair in the group photos. My social media skills were not quite as adept as those of the younger attendees, but I represent a growing population: seniors living with diabetes. I felt welcomed and respected by all.
In the last two years Medtronic Diabetes (MDT) has been reorganized to move from a product-based pump and sensor company to a patient-centric model. The MDT executives with whom we met described the future role of MDT as a “holistic diabetes management company.” They were consistent and comfortable using phrases such as:
Inspired by people
Global human insights
Behind numbers are the patient
No two journeys are the same
Together we can make change
The Medtronic Vision was shared often and highlighted on walls throughout MDT headquarters:
DIABETES CARE TOGETHER,
FOR GREATER FREEDOM
AND BETTER HEALTH
This idealistic philosophy envisions a table where all of the players meet with the patient as the focus. Doctors, pharma/tech companies, government, payers, and patients work together to achieve better clinical outcomes and high levels of satisfaction for patients. This is easy to draw on a white board, but unfortunately not the reality for most people affected by diabetes.
What is the role of Diabetes Advocates in this vision? I like to think that we are working to bridge the gap between how things are and how things should be. We are fighting to identify and throw the “Lack of” monsters under the bridge: lack of availability, lack of access, lack of coverage, lack of education, and lack of respect.
There is a huge gap in diabetes care between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” This disparity is significant in the United States and becomes even more staggering in a global view. In the conference room of advocates we had the mother of a child who was part of an artificial pancreas trial. In contrast we had representatives from countries with little or no access to diabetes education and advanced technology. Missing from the room were people from all over the world with marginal access to insulin and diabetes supplies.
The future success of a company like Medtronic is tied to providing products and services that deliver value-based quality healthcare. Positive clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction are worthy goals. Those are big words to describe what we all want: a happy and successful life with and despite of diabetes.
We advocates have a symbiotic relationship with companies like Medtronic. They need us as the faces and voices of people with diabetes. We need them for products, services, and the ability to open doors to decision-makers. I believe that their success results in better health for those of us with diabetes. Similarly, better outcomes for me should ultimately result in a healthier bottom line for them. Sitting at the table together gives both of us a better chance for success.
Transforming diabetes care together, for greater freedom and better health.
Disclosure: Medtronic Diabetes paid for my travel and hotel expenses to attend the forum. As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.