Revolutionizing Diabetes Care to Make a Difference

Reinvention — the key to diabetes care

CHANGING LIVES     |    Oct. 08, 2020

"Abbott reinvents itself constantly," begins Ansgar Resch, the Abbott diabetes care divisional vice president for commercial operations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan.

Ansgar Resch, Abbott diabetes care divisional vice president for commercial operations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan.

It's this idea of reinvention that has made one of Abbott's most well-known products, FreeStyle Libre, so successful. More than two million customers use FreeStyle Libre across more than 50 countries — making it the No. 1 continuous glucose sensor in the world and Abbott a world leader in glucose sensing technology. As Ansgar explains, if the product had a mantra, it would be "making diabetes management easier and better." And while reinvention is what has allowed the product to evolve, the team hasn't compromised on simplicity and ease of use.

The product was born after recognizing the pain and burden that people living with diabetes had to undergo on a daily basis, pricking their fingers to check glucose values. With FreeStyle Libre, people with diabetes can painlessly access those values without fingersticks.1

Now, in the midst of a pandemic, reinvention has become even more critical to ensure that people with diabetes have the tools they need to remain in control.

Reinventing Diabetes Care in the Midst of a Pandemic

As Ansgar candidly explains, diabetes is a condition that people usually have for a lifetime. His team's goal is to make diabetes care simpler, more intuitive and more insightful; they want people with diabetes to live to their full potential. That mandate is even more important in the wake of COVID-19.

People with diabetes have a higher propensity of having a severe course of the condition if infected with SARS-COV2.2 This makes the use of sensor-based therapy to control glycemic levels so much more pertinent. With regular monitoring there is a higher potential for a better glycemic control and better outcome, which could potentially be even more important in times of COVID-19. The FreeStyle Libre and its digital health tools enable doctors to remotely monitor glucose data, allowing them to connect in a virtual setting and provide vital ongoing care.3 This may help reduce the risk of exposure to the virus by eliminating the need to visit doctors in traditional healthcare settings.

For Ansgar and his team it was paramount to be able to serve patients without any interruptions. Fortunately, Abbott had worked hard to prepare the team around logistics and customer service to ensure that people with diabetes could access FreeStyle Libre and rely on it for support at all times.

After reassessing their business model and considering the potential in a virtual, remote setting, Ansgar and his team realized that the usual ways of doing business are a thing of the past. They quickly started to transform all parts of the business model to allow people with diabetes, healthcare professionals, and Abbott teams to operate remotely.

Impacting the Diabetes Care Market in the Long Term

That transition to remote monitoring and care will shape the business and the whole healthcare market - even beyond the times of COVID-19. The focus is around data-sharing — providing actionable insights rather than products. Going forward primary care givers and specialists will have the same data that can be assessed remotely from a range of connected devices enabling new more integrated models of care.4

Ansgar believes that sensor therapy will progress beyond people who are intensive insulin therapy users. All people with diabetes can benefit from glucose sensing data to better manage their condition. And it goes beyond making therapy decisions in terms of insulin dosages. With the opportunity to get continuous access to their glucose levels, people with diabetes will get an intuitive understanding of their condition.5 They can start to adapt their behavior, food intake, and exercise.

"It empowers people to better plan their lives and stay in control," he says. "I believe there's a lot of potential for a fundamental change in the trajectory of the condition if we democratize further sensor technology to expand beyond the current population of people with diabetes."

Unlocking the Power of Big Data to Manage Diabetes

As Ansgar sees it, data has the ability to positively affect the healthcare industry if it positively affects the person living with diabetes — the two must go hand in hand. Evaluating healthcare data can result in a number of benefits among them the opportunity to individualize care.

At Abbott, that means learning about how people with diabetes use devices and how they use their data while simultaneously securing their personal data and protecting their privacy. Ansgar and his team review data and insights to better understand how people with diabetes manage their condition. For example, how often are they scanning? How does that impact their glycemic control? These findings help the team further improve the product.

"For us, it's all about the people living with diabetes," says Ansgar. "We try to get feedback from them in the development process but also on an ongoing basis to understand their needs and how to improve our products to better meet those needs?"

Over time, with the help of this feedback, care for people with diabetes can be better managed, leading to fewer complications and hospitalizations. As reinvention remains a core part of Abbott's approach to healthcare, it also remains critical to Ansgar's career. He recalls the first sensor-based glucose product, based on the same wired-enzyme technology used for FreeStyle Libre, that had amazing technology but didn't embody simplicity. This attempt allowed the team to learn and reinvent the product.

"I recall a couple of diabetologists who told me, 'The person with diabetes needs to do it himself.' I can be the consultant, I can advise, but the job needs to be done by themselves," says Ansgar.

"I truly believe in the Abbott values, and if you embrace the Abbott values — pioneering, enduring, caring, achieving — if you embrace these principles, and have aspirations and drive for change, we can make a difference here in this world."

1Fingersticks are required for treatment decisions when you see Check Blood Glucose symbol, when symptoms do not match system readings, when you suspect readings may be inaccurate, or when you experience symptoms that may be due to high or low blood glucose.
2Mantovani A et al. 2020. “Diabetes as a risk factor for greater COVID-19 severity and in-hospital death: A meta-analysis of observational studies.” Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease. 30(8):1236-1248
3Peters A and SK Garg. 2020. “The Silver Lining to COVID-19: Avoiding Diabetic Ketoacidosis Admissions with Telehealth” Diabetes Care. 22(6)
4Diabetes UK. 2013. “Improving the delivery of adult diabetes care through integration: sharing experience and learning.” Available at:
5Bolinder et al. 2016, 2254–63. 2. Haak et al. 2017, 55–73. 3. Yaron M et al. 2019, 1178–84.