AHA: Verily's Onduo virtual care app improves glucose, cholesterol in Type 2 diabetes patients

These days, employer-sponsored wellness programs are a dime a dozen—but Verily may have hit the jackpot with its Onduo virtual care platform.

Alphabet’s life sciences arm unveiled the app in 2016 with an initial focus on diabetes and Sanofi as its partner in the $500 million venture. In the years since, Sanofi has exited the diabetes space—and therefore the Onduo project—and Verily has expanded the platform into other chronic conditions, but a new set of study results shows it can still be a major help to that original user group.

The study, which was presented at the American Heart Association’s annual scientific sessions Sunday, compared Onduo to other employer-sponsored health programs in improving glucose and cholesterol levels for people with Type 2 diabetes. After about nine months of use, Verily’s offering outdid the others across a handful of factors.

With the Onduo smartphone app, users can track their food and exercise, access healthy recipes and other wellness tips, and meet with either a health coach or telehealth doctor to assess their progress and set new health goals. They can also link other connected devices to the platform to further flesh out the app’s insights.

The study focused on nearly 600 people with Type 2 diabetes who used the Onduo app between December 2020 and September 2021—and who had previously participated in another wellness program in 2020.

On average, after using Onduo for about nine months, participants saw their HbA1c levels drop about 0.3%, compared to the 0% change in blood sugar levels they registered after their previous wellness programs. Meanwhile, fasting glucose levels dropped about 8.8%, a marked improvement from the 6.8% increase that users reported after their 2020 programs.

Their cholesterol levels improved, too: Onduo helped bring HDL, known as “good cholesterol,” up 1.4% and sent LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” down 6.4%, while the competing programs actually lowered HDL by 0.3% and brought LDL down by only 2.4%.

Those results were boosted by a handful of factors. For one, the improvements were most significant in users who began the program with higher glucose levels. Those with baseline HbA1c below 8%, for example, actually saw better results with their previous wellness programs, but the results were flipped for those who started Onduo with HbA1c above that threshold.

The same held true for participants who began using Verily’s app with baseline fasting glucose levels either below or above 126 mg/dL: While those in the former group were better served by the preceding programs, those in the latter group saw their fasting glucose levels drop more than 23% after nine months of Onduo, compared to the average 22% increase they reported after their 2020 programs.

The study also found that employees who relied on continuous glucose monitors or had regular telehealth visits in addition to using the Onduo app saw greater drops in their blood sugar levels—though only 13% of participants took advantage of the platform’s telemedicine services during the study period and just 10% connected a CGM.