Social solutions top tech in Sanofi contest

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Social solutions top tech in Sanofi contest
Social solutions top tech in Sanofi contest

The candidate to pocket $100,000 for winning Sanofi's second Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge was not one of the entrants that offered tech-centric solutions to diabetes management, but a community-focused proposition that focuses on face-to-face interactions.

“I think we were definitely outliers. Most folks who tend to go into these types of innovation challenges tend to be entrepreneurial in nature and we're kind of an outlier in that we're a nonprofit organization partnering with another entity,” winner n4a's Courtney Baldridge told MM&M.

The winning proposal is to create n4a Diabetes Care Centers, which the nonprofit and its partners, the National Minority Quality Forum and the National Health Index, entered into the competition (n4a stands for National Association of Area Agencies).

On the surface, the idea is simple: staff local centers with diabetes counselors and specialists so patients can walk in and get information about how to manage their diabetes. These centers will help identify what's coming between patients and their medical regimens, and then come up with solutions.

The innovation comes from a personal approach underpinned by data-driven targeting. N4a's goal is to help link diabetes patients to care strategies, but Big Data is helping the non-profit choose where these centers should be located.

Baldridge said the majority of diabetes patients who aren't filling their prescriptions, visiting doctors or following diabetes regimens are located in eight zip codes. It is here where n4a intends to set up shop and cultivate relationships with the community and healthcare providers. The idea is to have healthcare providers send patients to the centers so they can learn to manage life in addition to their medical condition.

N4a and the National Minority Quality Forum beat out finalist Enduring FX, which proposed making exercise a community event by outfitting public parks with interactive features, like weather forecasts, foursquare-like check-ins and milestone celebrations that include a photo finish posted to a community board when reaching a personal fitness best. The project was the pooled efforts of a software entrepreneur, software architect and athlete. “We think there's no way to halt the ramp-up in diabetes without targeting obesity,” the company said an Innovation Challenge blog entry.

The two projects were the last ones standing after a six-month process that began with a crowdsourcing period that determined the contest's focus and ended with a crowdsourced vote on which projects should make it to the final round.

The January votes said Sanofi's winning solution had to improve patient outcomes, improve the quality and effectiveness of diabetes care, reduce the cost of care without diluting its quality and cultivate “a state of overall wellness, and not just symptom mitigation.”

Five proposals made it to the semi-finals, and included projects that would aggregate and analyze diabetes-related data, video consultations with diabetes educators and a mobile monitoring and collaboration system that would help patients implement treatment plans.

Baldridge said her group is still raising money for its centers but hopes that within 6 to 9 months of opening the first center that they will be able to have “some very good numbers and results.
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