Continuous glucose monitoring company Dexcom has just launched a whole bunch of new features for its G6 mobile app, allowing more people to follow a userâ€™s data stream and introducing the long-awaited â€œHey Siri, Whatâ€™s My Glucose?â€ audio feature. Plus, the Dexcom G6 is now OKâ€™d for Canada and will likely be offered for Medicare beneficiaries in the U.S. before long. Exciting times!
Yet, as Dexcom marks its 20th birthday (since its founding in 1999), the California company is at a critical crossroads preparing for future growth and international expansion, not only for its current G6 model but its next- gen G7 technology expected to launch in late 2020. This has led to a corporate restructuring that impacts 13% of its employees, who will either be cut or moved around this year. Thatâ€™s 350 positions in customer service, sales, tech support and administrative functions being shifted or outsourced to third-party outfits or overseas â€” all in the name of enabling expanded manufacturing and a better position to handle its CGM business going forward.
Many loyal Dexcom users, who see the device as life-changing, are frustrated at the moment by order delays and long phone queue wait times. Some are also expressing concern over a Phillipines-based call center, which brings potential language barriers and reps not familiar enough with T1D or CGM.
To learn more, we spoke recently with Dexcomâ€™s CEO Kevin Sayer and Chief Technology Officer Jake Leach, who tell us that itâ€™s an exciting but transitional time at Dexcom as they prepare for the future and work to improve their services. But before we dig into that, letâ€™s run through the new app features just announced on Feb. 28.
New G6 Mobile App Features
The latest Dexcom G6 app updates hit the iOS store this past week:
At the moment, all these new G6 app features are specific to iOS in the Apple store, but Android is â€œcoming soon,â€ Dexcom tells us. The reason for the delay is that Apple apps are universal to the iPhone platform, while Android requires different developments and regulatory review for each phone model â€” meaning it takes more time, and not all Android phones types will be compatible. While itâ€™s frustrating for Android users, thatâ€™s just a limitation of the technosphere at this point.
Dexcomâ€™s Hot Technology Pipeline
Beyond the G6 app updates, we have a lot to be excited from Dexcom. At the recent Advanced Technologies and Treatments for Diabetes (ATTD) conference in Berlin, the company previewed more new mobile app features, its next-gen G7 tech anticipated in late 2020, and more.
Tandem Control-IQ Hybrid Closed Loop: Dexcom partner Tandem Diabetes Care launched its Basal-IQ product in mid-2018, which automatically suspends basal insulin when a Low glucose is predicted, using the G6-integrated t: slim X2 device. While thatâ€™s exciting all on its own, Tandem plans to launch its next version in late 2019 â€” the Control-IQ, which will add auto insulin-dosing for High glucose levels, too, making it just the second-ever â€œhybrid closed loopâ€ system on the market but offering more than the current Medtronic Minimed 670G available now.
The G6 Pro: FDA cleared in late 2018, the Pro Q is Dexcomâ€™s â€œprofessional CGMâ€ that allows healthcare professionals to monitor their patientâ€™s glucose and analyze trends for them. This includes a fully-disposable G6 transmitter and factory-calibrated 10-day sensor, and has the ability to use either â€œblindedâ€ (where only the healthcare professional can see the data) or with real-time, patient-visible data monitoring through the G6 mobile app. This is a big advance over the G4 professional version thatâ€™s been available, and it seems especially important for T2s who may want to try CGM or get a quick medical assessment in clinic only.
Smart Insulin Pens: At ATTD, CTO Leach announced officially for the first time that Dexcom is ready to allow â€œsmart insulin pensâ€ send data directly to the G6 app and onto its CLARITY platform. This is a huge benefit for those on Multiple Daily Injections (MDI) rather than insulin pumps. On the pen front, Dexcom is partnered with both Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, and we hope to see that integration available in the coming year.
G7 (Formerly Known as Verily Project): Remember that Dexcom partnered with Verily, formerly known as Google Life Sciences, back in 2015 to develop a low- cost, miniaturized CGM system? That work is ongoing, and Leach now says the 2nd gen product will likely be ready by late 2020 with a limited launch then and a broader rollout in 2021.
More Follow App Features: Dexcomâ€™s also planning to update its Follow app before long, adding improved graphics and a â€œNightâ€ button to dim the screen in the dark, and allowing up to 10 followers directly from the Follow app (as opposed to going through the G6 app).
Go, You! Also shown on a slide at ATTD was Dexcomâ€™s plan to soon launch other new features on its mobile app and CLARITY, such as an â€œOn the Bright Sideâ€ notification â€” an automated message generated when the app identifies days and patterns where CGM users achieve their glucose goals and encourages them. This type of positive reinforcement has been discussed for several years now, so itâ€™s nice to see it becoming reality.
TypeZero Advances: We also hear from Dexcom execs that thanks to its acquisition of TypeZero Technologies in 2018, the company will be weaving in more features using those algorithms. That includes an On-Demand Sleep function and an Exercise Feature that allows for insulin dosing; as well as a CGM-based bolus calculator. Thereâ€™s no exact timing on that, though studies are underway.
Longer Wear-Time: A 14-day wear sensor remains a goal, but thereâ€™s no ETA yet. Dexcomâ€™s Sayer says theyâ€™ll be conducting studies on that this year, while carefully working to comply with new regulatory requirements on the â€œiCGMâ€ designation for interoperability, which the FDA created in 2018 with the approval of Dexcomâ€™s G6 model. Weâ€™ll see if this materializes in a future iteration of G6 or if itâ€™ll be introduced with the G7.
Exciting stuff, no?
And yet, this brings us to the issue of Dexcomâ€™s recent announcement, showing that the company needed to rethink how it operates.
Dexcom Company Restructuring
In its earnings call on Feb. 21, Dexcom announced it had a record-breaking year, pulling in $1 billion in revenue for the first time. According to Sayer, â€œOur growth in 2018 was far beyond anything we ever thought weâ€™d achieve when we started the year, so itâ€™s really turned out to be a remarkable year of accomplishment for us.â€
Reflecting on the growing pains from their G5 launch and evolving Medicare coverage, leading up to the G6 approval that came much sooner than Dexcom expected in 2018, Sayer says the company has learned lessons that have led to the need to restructure. Details of that were announced during the recent earnings call and confirmed in an SEC filing.
This is also what plays into Medicare coverage and offering of the latest G6, which Dexcom currently says is planned to begin being offered to Medicare beneficiaries in the second half of this year (later than first announced last Fall). Without the inventory to meet the manufacturing (along with that added service demand), Dexcomâ€™s G6 growth for Medicare and now-approved Canada is taking longer to build up that infrastructure.
â€œWeâ€™re not going to go through these type of issues again, weâ€™re going to plan more. That means getting our factory set up, including doubling our G6 manufacturing capabilities before the end of this year. On top of that, weâ€™re building the additional lines and infrastructure for the next product,â€ Sayer says.
He points out how the company didnâ€™t use its Phoenix-area manufacturing facility as was first planned when announced in 2016. Instead, they initially leased a location in Mesa, AZ, for tech manufacturing and then later in 2017 added on hundreds of jobs and turned it into a call center when that need arose.
â€œWe opportunistically solved problems with people and assets that we had, rather than stepping back and determining what we actually needed and what it would look like for the best customer experience,â€ Sayer said. â€œThe message we need to convey better now is that we think we can more efficiently and better take care of our customers by restructuring the way we do things. Some of our functions will be outsourced to third-party entities, some will move to our Dexcom- Phillipines global business services in Manila, and some will be consolidated at Dexcom-San Diego from what was based in Arizona.â€
While there will be job losses in both Arizona and San Diego this year, Sayer says that after the restructuring there will be more employees in those locations than previously â€” those employees will just be doing different things.
Sayer told us no one at Dexcom has been fired or â€œwalked out the door,â€ and that those notified of layoffs have (by federal law) at least 60 days left at the company. Many will be asked to stay longer, and he says more people will be manning the phones for the next 5-6 months, to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
â€œI look out at the tower we have in Manila and see the signs and names of all our competitors displayed. This is not unique to Dexcom, as there are literally 1.3 million people in Manila who work at these call centers for U.S.-based companies,â€ he said. â€œThis is a market where we see (all the resources) out our window already. We really need to focus and give our customers the best we can.â€
Sayer added that it comes down to â€œbetter results than what we can do and how weâ€™re doing it now.â€
â€œItâ€™s all about taking care of our CGM customers and the company. I think that outcome, a year from now, will be positive. Sure, there will be hiccups; there always are and we see them now without doing this. But itâ€™s not a decision we took lightly. We believe itâ€™s what is best for our business and customers.â€
Here at the â€˜Mine, weâ€™re of course sad to see job losses, but the fact is that Dexcom is all grown up now. Their customer base is expanding hugely, and they need to remake themselves to properly handle that. So while delayed orders and long wait times are annoying at the moment, no doubt those issues will be fixed soon.
Meanwhile, we remain excited about how Dexcom is changing the diabetes technology landscape for the better.
This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a leading consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community that joined ishonest Media in 2015. The Diabetes Mine team is made up of informed patient advocates who are also trained journalists. We focus on providing content that informs and inspires people affected by diabetes.
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