How Oviva became the leading behaviour-change company in Europe – Interview with Dr. sc. Kai Eberhardt, Co-Founder & CEO, Oviva

There are already 1.5 billion overweight people globally who could access mobile weight loss and lifestyle therapy solutions. Covid-19 has shed light on the growing importance of remote app diet coach driven behaviour-change programs in digital chronic care. Together with Dr. Kai Eberhardt, Co-Founder and CEO of Oviva, we explore the factors that determine the success of mobile lifestyle support solutions and the increasing popularity of mobile weight loss and diet coaching in the chronic condition management payer market, the company’s business model and how their evidence-based personalized digital solution helps patients to live longer and happier lives.

Mobile weight loss market is one of the biggest and most successful segments of digital health. As the Research2Guidance analyst team reports in the Global Mobile Weight Loss Market 2020-2025 study, mobile weight loss solutions have already created a global multi-billion market which targets both the end user audience and payers and have transformed chronic care, as they increasingly are an essential part of preventing and managing various chronic conditions. Individual dietary coaching and tailored behaviour-change treatment plans support self-management of diabetes, obesity, hypertension and play a key role in prediabetes, in some cases even can reverse Type 2 diabetes. These digital health solutions enable doctors and healthcare teams adjust treatment and monitor more effectively their at-risk population. Payer organizations increasingly rely on their partnerships with digital health innovators to address the costly chronic disease management burden.

We talked to Dr. Kai Eberhardt, Co-Founder and CEO of Oviva – a leading provider of digital diet and lifestyle therapy in Europe, about their evidence-based digital solution designed to stop the progression of and reverse Type 2 diabetes and obesity related conditions, their key competitive differentiator and engagement strategy, as well as how they respond to the corona pandemic.

Enjoy the interview!

Research2Guidance: As a short introduction to Oviva, could you please share the story behind it and what Oviva’s service offering is?
Kai Eberhardt: Oviva is the leading provider of digital diet and lifestyle therapy in Europe. We support patients with conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease to live healthier lives in Switzerland, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

We are prescribed by doctors and provide fully remote app-based care and a hybrid solution combining digital and face-to-face care. Our smartphone application allows patients to understand their condition and work towards a better diet and lifestyle step-by-step and supported by professional dietitians.

Oviva was founded in 2014. One of our founders, a doctor treating overweight adolescents, noticed his patients did not follow his recommendation to attend behavioural change therapy. He saw that more and more of them were focused on their phones, and thus thought a therapy would be more effective if it was designed to meet patients where they are – online.

We did not understand this as succinctly at the time, but what we saw was that an important element of care was held back by hurdles in the delivery to the patient and that it could be solved via the patients’ phone. Thus, we decided to offer a smartphone app that combines a digital platform with coaching.

Research2Guidance: What is Oviva’s unique value proposition and how do you differentiate your service offering from your key competitors?
Kai Eberhardt: We are the most digital and scaled reimbursed offering in our space in Europe, which means that our service is paid for by our patients’ insurance. We are one of the very few digital health companies that have uptake across several countries with different healthcare systems.

In the UK, for example, we partner with the nation-wide health system, the NHS. Our programs help the NHS reduce demand on primary care and hospitals by supporting patients to better self-manage their health. Our diabetes prevention plan is part of NHS’ digital pilot program “Healthier You” and has demonstrated significantly higher uptake and completion rate than face-to-face services. In general, patients achieve over 90% completion in our programs and 96% of our patients would recommend us.

I am proud our work leads to significant positive long-term outcomes for patients.

Research2Guidance: What is your business model and how do you engage with your customers?
Kai Eberhardt: Oviva reaches patients by building partnerships with doctors, who refer potential patients to us. The referral ensures that our patients’ insurance covers the costs of our care program, which is the first step to sustainable change in their lives.

On our program, the patients work closely with dedicated coaches and dietitians who empower them to manage their health. Together they agree on achievable goals and identify the steps needed to reach great outcomes with sustainable behavioural changes. Between the coaching sessions, our patients can track their progress via our app, review information, ask questions, and get feedback. All our programs are easily personalized and fit into the patients’ typically busy life.

Our approach was designed and tested by health care professionals, including doctors, dietitians, psychologists, and nurses, as well as leading academics in behavioural change. At present, we collaborate with over 5000 doctors and have treated over 150000 people. We are constantly developing our partnerships to support more and more people self-manage their health.

Research2Guidance: You have built and established successful partnerships with over 5000 doctors in Europe. What makes a successful partnership?
Kai Eberhardt: It comes down to being a reliable, high-quality partner, and adding value to a doctor’s everyday work. More practically, the two biggest elements we contribute are an evidence-based, helpful service to their patients as described above, and allow our partners to practice closer to the top of their licence. In essence, we enable doctors to spend more time diagnosing their patients, instead of explaining to them how lifestyle choices affect their health.

Research2Guidance: In your opinion, what are the key success driving features and services you offer (e.g 1:1 coaching, BG forecasting, adherence reminders)?
Kai Eberhardt: An outstanding user experience of a platform, where patients get the personalised support and customised insights they need for success. Support by a dedicated coach is a big success factor, as are compelling content, gamification and interactions with other patients who find themselves in similar situations.

Research2Guidance: What are the factors that determine the success of mobile weight loss and lifestyle support solutions? What challenges are you facing at Oviva?
Kai Eberhardt: Our success is driven by outstanding, validated clinical outcomes and plenty of real-world proof we can deliver at scale without compromising on quality. Healthcare systems can require a lot of validation and time to take up new approaches (often with good reason), but even with the pandemic catalysing change by a few years, there is still a lot of friction for change.

Research2Guidance: And why is that? Why are solutions that have a proven impact on improving people’s lives not adopted faster?
Kai Eberhardt: Healthcare systems are right to demand significant evidence before implementing novel approaches and that takes time to generate and for that knowledge to spread. Also, there are many other stakeholders in healthcare, e.g., regulators, insurers, providers and of course patients. Their interests and incentives are not always aligned and don’t always aim towards the best care for patients. This can delay adoption further, even for well-proven approaches with strong benefits for patients that reduce overall healthcare costs.

Research2Guidance: Oviva is offering services for multiple conditions e.g. pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes and weight loss. Are those separate or integrated services? Which program is the most popular? In general, how many dietitians / coaches do you have?
Kai Eberhardt: Diabetes remission services are growing the fastest, thus our largest partnerships aim at preventing diabetes and weight loss. But all our programs focus on weight-related conditions, they are solely distinct in their content and clinical approach. They are all part of the same technology, but that adopts itself significantly to the program and even the individual patients’ needs. All programs have a very high satisfaction rate with a net promoter score above 70% and are thus popular. Today, over 200 healthcare professionals work at Oviva.

Research2Guidance: In the latest report by Research2Guidance “The Global Digital Diabetes Care Market 2020: Going Beyond Diabetes Management“, the leading market players are looking to expand into new chronic conditions and add new types of services, thus creating integrated digital multi-conditional chronic care platforms. Do you think this is a successful strategy to increase market share and a company’s revenue?
Kai Eberhardt: Yes, I believe it is. This is particularly relevant for US players accessing patients through self-insured employers. If a digital health provider can offer more services within its solution, it can make all the difference for a decision-maker. Also, a large share of patients has several chronic diseases, so being able to offer them care out of one platform will be helpful, especially if this care is well-coordinated. As always breadth needs to be weighed versus the necessary trade-off in focus.

Research2Guidance: So, is Oviva also considering such an amplification of the product?
Kai Eberhardt: For us and being in Europe more scale and depth in our very large core indications takes priority over covering additional conditions. Even though we are by far the largest digital provider in our region, we still only reach a small fraction of the people who could benefit from our services.

Research2Guidance: Oviva is present in several European countries. Do you have any plans to expand? Which markets are of interest to you and why?
Kai Eberhardt: Yes, we are present in the 3 largest markets in Europe. We are looking for more expansion opportunities here. We are particularly excited by markets where our services can be reimbursed without requiring changes to the reimbursement system, which usually takes many years.

Research2Guidance: The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital health solutions into the healthcare system. How did you respond to COVID19?
Kai Eberhardt: At the beginning of the pandemic, we registered a decrease in new patients. This is due to the fact that patients are referred to us by their doctors, whom they haven’t been able to see anymore.

However, with face-to-face services becoming unsafe from one day to another, the pandemic also opened a window of opportunity for us. Many patients began to directly request our services, so our traction quickly increased above our pre-Covid expectations. At present, our patients have a choice of calls or text support via the Oviva app from the comfort of their homes.

Research2Guidance: What is next for Oviva? Where do you see the company in the near future?
Kai Eberhardt: We will continue doubling down, so digitizing care while improving outcomes and patient experience. With that, we want to solve the access problem to behavioural change therapy for chronic, weight-related conditions. That will improve patients’ health and reduce healthcare costs.

Research2Guidance: Kai Eberhardt, thank you very much for your thoughts and insights. We wish you and Oviva’s team to stay safe and healthy.

About Oviva
Oviva was founded in 2014 by an interdisciplinary team of medicine and technology experts who saw the challenges patients experienced accessing tailored and effective treatment as mandated by national guidelines. Globally, an average of one in eleven people has been diagnosed with diabetes – nearly double the proportion in 1980. In Europe, 50% of the population is overweight and at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The technology incorporated in Oviva’s treatment strengthens the relationship between patients and professional care providers, improves patient access and reduces costs, as demonstrated by Oviva’s results and 11 peer-reviewed publications to date. The technology allows patients to self-record their food intake, weight, activity and symptoms, educate themselves about their disease and healthy behaviours, and communicate with other patients and their care provider. This ensures patients receive personalised support without the hassle of face-to-face appointments.

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