If you were asked how many Georgians either have adult diabetes or “pre-diabetes,” what would you guess? Five percent? Ten?

Try half. Half.

Of these, 14 percent of Georgia adults actually have the disease, whether they know it or not, according to the American Diabetes Association. Another 36 percent have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal – and in the range to be considered “pre-diabetes.” See if you might be one of them >

It’s a huge medical and economic problem in our state. Treating diabetes starts with keeping a close watch on blood sugar levels, measuring it several times a year – or for those on insulin, several times a day.

A startup out of Emory, backed by GRA, is lessening that burden for Georgians. It’s Diasyst, and in February 2021, it became the latest company to join the portfolio of GRA Venture Fund.

The quick pitch
Diasyst makes it easier for doctors and their staff to track and manage patients with diabetes. Patients use an app to enter in their blood sugar levels; the data is automatically sent to their healthcare team. The Diasyst platform synthesizes many individual measurements into a single actionable data point.

And that’s good because…
It reduces the number of trips to the doctor. And it allows doctors to adjust medications more precisely. And it drives new revenue to physician practices. In the end, it makes diabetes management much easier for everyone.

Big bonus to those in small Georgia towns
Diasyst can be used anywhere of course, but in rural areas, it’s especially helpful to people who have to travel long distances to visit a specialist. The hassle of scheduling and making those long trips is reduced while monitoring is increased.

A surprise finding
Something interesting was revealed when people started using Diasyst: Lower blood sugars. In a couple of studies, participants who used Diasyst showed, on average, lower A1C (blood sugar) levels. The increased monitoring they received is believed to have helped them fine-tune their lifestyle and medication.

It started as a senior project (kind of)
In 2011, Chun Yong was an undergrad at Georgia Tech. As part of his senior thesis, he was paired with Dr. Lawrence Phillips, an Emory professor of endocrinology. Their research yielded the intellectual property that led to Diasyst.

That’s when they knew they had something good
A clinical trial involving military veterans at Atlanta’s VA Medical Center allowed Yong, Phillips and their team to refine the technology. Yong: “Participants in the trial saw blood sugars go down during the trial, and unfortunately, back up when they stopped using the Diasyst monitoring system after the trial ended.” 

…and they haven’t looked back since
Yong and Phillips launched the company in 2015. GRA’s venture development program has provided grants and a Phase III loan.

A pivotal moment
In 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services green-lighted four new reimbursement codes to allow more providers to get paid for using Diasyst and educating patients on the service. The financial benefit to doctors means more will use the platform.

A promising trend
Some states have passed new laws to expand the use of technologies like Diasyst to strengthen patient care in remote areas.

How much again?
Medical expenses for diagnosed diabetes in Georgia were estimated at $7.8 billion in 2017. Another $3 billion was spent on indirect costs from lost productivity. Source: American Diabetes Association

What one endocrinologist says
Dr. Jason Berner of Canton, Ga. uses Diasyst to help treat 30 patients with diabetes. Some live hours away. “If they see me at least once a year, I can improve and maintain their control.”

Patients use Diasyst to auto-upload their blood sugar readings to their doctors, who track the readings over time.

And get this
People with diabetes have about 2.3 times more medical expense than those who don’t have the condition.

The company faced a hurdle…
Healthcare teams can increase revenue by using Diasyst to monitor patients more frequently, adjusting treatment and billing insurance. Problem is, many say they don’t have the people to handle these tasks.

…so they did this
The company will provide practices with a certified diabetes educator (CDE) to reach out to eligible patients, enroll them in a program and help the practice monitor and manage them.

Fun fact about the founder
A year after Chun Yong graduated from Georgia Tech with a biomedical engineering degree, he went to work at Coca-Cola designing user experiences. But he never lost track of the technology born out of his research days. And toward the end of his Coke stint, Yong co-founded Diasyst.

Blue-chip, brand-name believers
Beyond scores of clinical practices in seven states, Diasyst has signed up Piedmont Healthcare and will soon announce several other major healthcare systems. On top of Medicare, major payers like United Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield cover the service, along with state Medicaid plans.