Wanted: Endorsers and influencers

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SAN DIEGO – BodyMedia popped onto the HME radar screen recently when it announced that it would use $12 million in new funding to expand into the diabetes and sleep markets. The company, which makes wearable body monitors that track info on calories and sleep patterns and have been integrated into weight loss programs like Jenny Craig, also added John Miclot, a former exec at Respironics, to its board of directors. HME News caught up with BodyMedia CEO Christine Robins to find out more.

HME News: What drew BodyMedia to the diabetes and sleep markets?

Christine Robins: We’ve been around for 13 years, but we’ve really only gotten on people’s radar screens in the past two years. We have a rich history in the medical space and the clinical research space: Our technology has been applied in a number of areas of health care, from ERs to weight management. The challenge we had is that we couldn’t do it all at once. So we focused on the overweight market and tried to get some really significant year-over-year growth. Now this funding allows us to build out a platform play and focus on lifestyle issues for other conditions.

HME: Why is focusing on lifestyle issues a sound strategy, whether we’re talking about obesity, diabetes or sleep disorders?

Robins: Seventy percent of healthcare costs are due to lifestyle choices like smoking.

HME: So it sounds like you provide your technology both through clinicians and consumers. Is this how you plan to also approach the diabetes and sleep markets?

Robins: We have two products, one for the clinician, which has the same hardware but more extensive software, and one for the consumer, and what we’ve done over time is built out these distribution channels. Whether it’s a physician’s office or a medically guided weight loss program or a personal trainer—they become an endorser. We’re always looking for those business opportunities where there’s some sort of influencer involved.

HME: HME providers could certainly be influencers for the diabetes and sleep disorder markets. How familiar are you with the industry?

Robins: I wouldn’t say we’re fully versed in the industry, but we’re starting to get approached by people in the home healthcare space who are looking to enhance compliance and outcomes. They see a technology like ours as a way to bring to the table more of a complete solution.

HME: You mentioned year-over-year growth earlier in our conversation.

Robins: We’ve grown about 25%-plus year over year in the past three years. I can tell you that three years ago, when I came to BodyMedia, we were cold calling people. Now we don’t have time to think about that; there are so many inbound inquiries. I’ve never seen a category—personal body sensing technology—change and evolve this fast.

HME: Do you expect it to keep up this pace?

Robins: I don’t see it stopping. What Steve Jobs did for technology and what people expect from technology—it has become so seamlessly integrated into our lives. The aging population today doesn’t have the same kind of skill set with technology as the aged population in five to 10 years will have, so there is a time shift happening. But the other thing happening is that more and more young people are overweight and have diabetes, and these people are tech-savvy. They demand more to manage their diseases as part of their day-to-day lives.