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Abbott dX Virtual 2020


Having missed the preceding event in 2019 (in Lisbon) through my man meets horse moment, I was greatly looking forward to ‘attending’ this year’s event, albeit from my spare room rather than the rather more appealing Portuguese capital…but at least the quality of tea on offer was top-notch!

Each year since 2015, Abbott have run an event for bloggers and influencers (and me!) bringing together representatives from all over Europe.  This year there were over forty representatives from fifteen European countries, including eight people from the UK.  The programme was split over Friday evening and Saturday morning with a variety of speakers and discussion sessions.  The sessions were run on the Remo platform (https://remo.co/), an application I didn’t know of previously, but certainly something that has great potential.  I’ll go through its functionality at the end of my review.

At this point I need to stress that I haven’t been asked to blog about this event and I have not received anything from Abbott either as an incentive to attend or as a reward for doing so.

The overall theme of the conference was Life-Changing Moments.  The sessions started with introductions, although this was just each country group being virtually invited to the stage so that everyone could see who was attending (bit awkward!).  It  was like Eurovision; I half expected us to receive nul points.  Not everybody made it to the sessions on time, possibly as a result of technical or scheduling difficulties.  The session started at 16:00 UK time.

There were three sessions on Friday evening starting with Alizée Agier, a World Karate Champion and 2021 Olympian, talking about the challenges presented by Covid-19 and dealing with Type 1 as an elite athlete. 

Alizee Agier - World Karate Champion

Alizée is French and was diagnosed with T1 aged 19.  She noted that her friends bombarded her with questions when she was first diagnosed and she was constantly fielding questions about all aspects of diabetes.   She was twice World Champion at junior level and is now the senior World and European Champion.  She would have already competed in this year’s Olympics had it taken place, but is hopeful for 2021.  Now 26, she has also qualified as a police officer, so has flexibility in her future career.  She spoke of how during her sport that blood glucose would usually rise.  She explained that she didn’t let diabetes hold her back and that she even managed to keep her Freestyle Libre attached to her arm even when competing (mostly!).  I will certainly be looking out for her at Tokyo 2021 and beyond.

After Alizée there was a short session from Fiona Lloyd of Abbott speaking about how Abbott were investing in mental health and diabetes across Europe.  She introduced Vanessa Haydock – the diabetes health coach.

Vanessa Haydock - the Diabetes Health Coach


Vanessa is a personal trainer and behaviour analyst.  Vanessa has infectious energy and passion as well as being clearly a very driven and successful individual.  She explained how she was diagnosed aged three and therefore had known diabetes all her life.  It was a long while before she realised that she was any different to her peers.  Her mother even primed the local ice-cream van to serve “The Vanessa” - a half ice-cream…or perhaps a 49.5?! Her relationship with diabetes was fraught during her teenage years.  It took a diagnosis of retinopathy and maculopathy as well as the doctor explaining she might lose her sight by the age of 30 to make her re-engage with her condition.  She has been extremely successful in her diabetes management having an A1C of around 5.3% despite not being on a special diet.  Through peer support she discovered the Libre has found it made a significant difference to her control.

She had a several recommendations for people to deal with diabetes

·         Acknowledge the positive impact of peer support

·         Learn to accept you condition

·         Learn from mistakes

·         Learn not to be ashamed of your condition (she uses the hashtag #showoffyoursensor

·         Continually strive to prove others wrong and that anything is possible.

She still has bad days and her mental health isn’t always perfect.  Health anxiety is there sometimes, but Libre helps with this.  She endlessly focuses on the positives.  Diabetes has given her a purpose in life, predominantly to help others and spread the word.

She concluded with the statement “Diabetes, don’t let it own you”, which seems an apt mantra to live by.

The final session of the evening was signposted as the Abbott Update.  

Abbott Technology Update

This made a few of us optimistic that there may be significant news that may affect us and the diabetes community.  Sadly, we were to be disappointed.  There was no update on Libre 2 availability or any other significant developments.  It transpired that the session would be almost entirely about the recently-announced Libre Sense system.  Whilst I am sure this is interesting to some, I felt that this was of minimal interest to me.  The session was led by Ismene Grohman from the New Analyte Ventures team at Abbott – obviously Abbott are looking for new sensing opportunities across a range of areas.

Libre Sense is a new system coming to market this year across Europe, including the UK, aimed at blood glucose monitoring for athletes.  It is not indicated for diabetes use and is constrained to levels between 55mg/dl to 200 mg/dl.  However, with a partner app it live updates an app every minute.  Cost will be €65 a month via a subscription model or €80 for a single sensor without further obligation.  VAT may well be payable on top of this cost.  

This puts the cost in Dexcom territory.  I suspect that part of the reason for the launch to this market are the minimal regulatory requirements.  I hope that the technology employed in Libre Sense finds its way into future iterations of diabetes Libre.  I just wish they hadn’t used Libre in the name, as I feel it is going to cause significant confusion (not to mention wasted money) amongst the diabetes community.

Tim Street has analysed the announcement made by Abbott about Libre Sense on his Diabettech Blog

Following the final session of the evening, there was a chance to have a chat with others that were attending, although most left quickly after the session.

Day 2

Saturday started at 07:45 with a “light exercise session” by Dr Hazel Wallace – a wellness coach and qualified doctor.  I’d like to tell you all about the session, but sadly I didn’t attend, preferring to start with the main sessions at 09:00.  Following a short conversation with a couple of delegates the main Saturday session commenced.  

Group Discussion - the Impact of Covid-19

This session was focused on the experiences of delegates during the Covid crisis.  The session was facilitated by Shelina Begum, former editor of the Manchester Evening News.  The Remo platform allowed delegates to be split into tables.  Delegates were mixed between different tables so that there were a variety of countries represented at each one.  There was then a fifteen minute discussion at each table about one of the following topics: Food, Sleep, Sports and Social Life.  At the end of the fifteen minutes, representatives of each table were brought up to the speaking platform and had a chat with Shalina about the group discussions. 

My group were allocated Sleep – there were a few insights, although most people on the table suggested that their sleep hadn’t been affected by Covid.  One delegate explained how early in the crisis she was very anxious about the implications of Covid.  She dealt with this by focusing on the areas that she could control and getting more information.  She also limited her social media to pre-9pm and ensured evening exercise.  Others concluded that diabetes certainly caused general sleep issues, but that Covid itself hadn’t adversely affected it.  One delegate even highlighted that she was a new Mum and spoke of the challenges of sleep deprivation due to both diabetes and the new baby.  There were different levels of sleep requirement amongst the group with the lowest requirement being around half of the greatest.

The Sports table highlighted how a number of them had been trying to get hold of sports equipment.  Due to Covid, this had become difficult with weights and kettlebells being difficult to source in a number of countries.  The lack of team sports was also highlighted as difficult.

The Food table spoke about how they felt that for the most part, food had been positively influenced by Covid.  Yes, there were difficulties sourcing certain items, and not being able to go out for food was annoying, however they found new suppliers and the preparation of food became an event.  They found new suppliers and ate food that they may not have done previously.  A delegate from Paris even commented that due to shortages there, she was sourcing some of her provisions from Poland!

The final table spoke about Social Life.  They highlighted that in the UK especially the lines between what’s allowed and what is not have become increasingly blurred.  People seemed to be making their own rules whilst for the most part remaining within the spirit of the guidance.  It was clear that mental health was being adversely affected by the lack of physical contact.  Virtual meetings became the norm during the strong lockdown, but people have now tired of these and far fewer are happening.  It was a great relief to some to be able to once more meet up with people in person.

Lionel Reichardt - The Pharma Geek 


The final organised session was lead by The Pharma Geek, Lionel Reichardt.  This session clearly appealed to almost all delegates and gave a great introduction to the rapidly-evolving digital healthcare world.  The title of his talk was “Is virtual care the next big thing?”

He first highlighted that this is the first pandemic of the digital age and the first pandemic that mankind can stop.  He also cited that this pandemic has been an amazing accelerator for the digital transformation of the world.  I think few could argue with this sentiment.

He added that there are three fights with data to fight three issues

·         The fight against the pandemic and the virus

·         The fight against the disease

·         The fight against the infodemic

He explained that there were three challenges facing healthcare:

·         Make visible the invisible

·         Make people connected by contactless

·         Increase capabilities

He went on to talk about the rise of telehealth.  In France, pre-Covid, just 0.1% of interactions between HCPs and patients were virtual.  In April 2020, there were 1.5 million interactions a week equating to 25%-30% of all interactions.  80% of HCPs had engaged in virtual consultations.

He also explained that Digital Therapeutics (DTX) are on the rise.

There are various innovations including connected devices at the point of care, like the Oura ring (https://ouraring.com/) and getting data from a video feed (https://www.binah.ai/)

Health innovation funding has tripled since 2015 and there’s been a sharp rise in the second half of 2020.  The biggest ever merger in the sector happened in August 2020 between Teladoc and Livongo creating an organisation valued in excess of $37bn (https://www.medicaldevice-network.com/features/teladoc-livongo-merger-analysis/).

He cited the example of Omada Health.  This is a programme to help those with Type 2 to transform their lives.  Its tagline is “Digital health made human”.  Participants get a connected scale and activity tracker.  They are allocated to groups of twelve people supported by a coach.  This combines the best aspects of peer support, expertise and connected devices to make life-changing outcomes.

He explained that health access inequalities do exist, but a significant challenge is that medical knowledge is increasing rapidly.  At the turn of the nineteenth century, medical knowledge was doubling every eight years.  At the current time, this knowledge is thought to double every 73 days.  Cost of technology is certainly a factor but it is improving all the time, especially the technology contained in wearable tech.

He concluded with a quote Jean Monnet, which seems to sum-up the current situation nicely:



There followed a Q&A session with many opinions being voiced, especially surrounding how healthcare providers can embrace innovations and ensure they lead the way in making progress.  There was a general feeling from the group that patients were driving progress more than they should be.  Virtual consultations were more about the patients telling the HCPs what they needed more than the HCPs offering advice and guidance.

This final session was certainly the highlight of the conference and I could have discussed this and listened to this engaging speaker for far longer.

There followed a more informal session without formal facilitation when those that had time to remain chatted around what they had heard.  I discussed my current ‘pet project’ of smart insulin pens and access to appropriate resources that those that may not far along their journey with diabetes.  It was good to hear empathy for this from other delegates in other countries.  I strongly feel that a focus on cutting-edge tech is great – but those that aren’t at that frontier must not be forgotten and arguably the biggest impact can be had by engaging with the group that are not yet tech users for their diabetes.

Clearly a lot of work behind the scenes had been conducted by Abbott.  The conference ran smoothly and it was great to link up with so many people from across Europe to discuss topics pertinent to all of us.

Remo Conferencing

Remo was the platform where the conference was held.  It was really impressive in most aspects and could be something worth considering for future conferences should the pricing not be prohibitive.  Here is an image from a different conference that demonstrates the Remo interface.

There were a number of tables each with names of European Cities.  When joining the conference you can see who is at each table and choose to join any of the tables.  Double-clicking on the table takes you there and as soon as you virtually sit down, you can hear the conversation happening there and you can activate your microphone and camera to fully interact with the people at that table.  The host can set timers that are displayed on screen showing how long the discussion should last.  Once the timer is out then the screen changes and the host of that session has control, much like a Zoom session.  If they choose, they can add other people to the speaker session and they appear on the speaker screen.  You can raise your hand and there is live chat with similar functionality like Zoom.  The speaker can share their screen, which results in both the speaker and their screen being visible.  You can choose to just view the speaker if desired.  Some of the transitions between speakers were a little slow, but the platform certainly looked as if it could be ideal for large groups and was great for networking.

Thank you

Thanks to Anita De Groot, the Communications Director for Abbott in Europe for facilitating the conference and for our local UK contact Fabienne Garceau. It was great to meet up with people both old acquaintances and new contacts.  I think that overall this event should be considered a success.  Let's hope that dX 2021 can be held in person, but if not, I'm sure that another online conference will be a reasonable substitute.

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