The Big Interview – Roche Diabetes Care’s James Clarke
The Diabetes Times Editor Oliver Jelley spoke to James Clarke, Head of Commercial at Roche Diabetes Care, in the latest DT Big Interview ahead of World Diabetes Day.
Read the interview in full below.
You’ve recently joined Roche Diabetes Care, what was your background prior to this role and what do you hope to bring to Roche?
I’ve had just over 20 years’ experience with the NHS working with companies in primary and secondary care most recently, within tissue viability and stoma. I think the commonality within that is that movement over the patient pathway between primary and secondary care.
That leads into the second point, which is as we go forward you can see in the long-term plan for the NHS how patients are being treated in the care setting and where those priorities sit. I hope I bring a little bit of experience from other areas that I can bring to this as we move in an ever-changing environment so we can adapt to be successful and really deliver what people with diabetes and healthcare professionals need, which will look I’m sure very different in a few years times even than as it stands today, we’re living in a time of extreme change.
What’s your greatest personal achievement been?
There’s probably two, one personal and one professional. The personal one is getting married to my wife, which was definitely a personal achievement to me.
I think the professional achievement linked to that was, completing my MBA part time whilst working and staying married during that period of time. The two together are very important to me.
Talk us through a typical day in your life and your professional life?
I’m one of these people that operates better at the start of the day so I’m normally up early in the morning and trying to get ahead of the day with a few emails first of all.
I think with all of us now there’s a slight change in that we are working in this hybrid world but most of us are getting used to working from home. Like everyone I try to keep that structure and check in with people as well as attend the business meetings throughout the week making sure we know as a team we know where we all are, whilst trying to keep as close as possible to the customers. For me at the moment understanding the business is also a big part of my day. I try to intersperse that in the morning between internal and external meetings. I try to break for lunch in some shape or form, stretch my legs and get a bit of fresh air.
In the afternoon, I try to take some time for at least part of the week for some reflection and personal learning and then try and feed that back into what I’m doing.
Whilst it looks slightly different from day to day, I try to keep that loose structure. At the end of the week I can say that there’s a series of things that have been achieved, that we’ve moved forward in some ways.
What do you do in your spare time?
A big part of what I do in my spare time is endurance sports. Specifically, I like to take part in triathlons. I’m not fast but I’m an enthusiastic amateur in medium and long triathlons. In the past couple of years ago I took part in the Iron Man in Copenhagen and I’ve got another one next year, so that keeps me busy at the weekend and gives me space to think.
Back to your professional life, what do you aim to achieve in the next five years?
This really aligns back to the fact that we’re trying to mirror very much the long-term plan for the NHS. What we can see is that there’s a focus around people being treated in the appropriate care setting, which in a lot of cases means out of hospital.
We can all see that the pressure is on – certainly in secondary care – at the moment with lengthy waiting lists, so there’s a focus on making sure people are getting the treatment they need and there is a focus on prevention as opposed to treatment. A big part of being able to achieve that is with digital tools and how we can effectively get the right tools into the hands of both people with diabetes and healthcare professionals and then give them the information and knowledge they need. We want people with diabetes to feel empowered to take control and for the healthcare professional to feel they can easily prioritise and focus on the area of needs.
So that’s where we’re starting that journey at the moment. Along with having connected blood glucose meters, we have the mySugr diabetes management app which gives people with diabetes more information and understanding more about how they can manage their diabetes more effectively.
Building on that, the RocheDiabetes Care Platform is able to present patient data to the healthcare professional to give them actionable insights so that they can offer a more personalised approach to diabetes care. The RocheDiabetes Care Platform helps to streamline workflows to help the healthcare team spend less time gathering data and more time in meaningful consultations.
This is quite embryonic for us, but over the next five years we aim to be able to support people with diabetes and healthcare professionals alike to deliver that care in the most appropriate setting and take some of that burden off of the secondary care setting.
Tell us more about Roche’s vision for integrated personalised care and what does this look like according to Roche?
Integrated personalised diabetes management (or iPDM) is our vision of how we connect relevant patient data from diabetes management devices, health & fitness apps and other systems.
Traditionally people with diabetes monitored their blood glucose with a meter and if they were in and out of range they would speak with a professional in primary care, either the GP or the nurse. There may also be some intervention in secondary care. What we’re trying to do is to create that connectivity and use these digitally-enabled pieces of equipment and services to be able to treat people in an appropriate setting.
Tools such as the mySugr app, which connects with blood glucose meters means that people with diabetes will actually have a lot more information at their fingertips. Again, it’s about empowering people in their own home so that they can make better decisions about their diabetes in between appointments.
The Care Platform, which I mentioned earlier, then connects with the meter in the app to be able to highlight patterns in their patient’s diabetes data, giving them the ability to be able to prioritise certain patients, so they can direct resources more effectively.
By creating an environment that provides a support network and takes some pressure off the key bottlenecks in the healthcare system and the patient pathways it hopefully provides a better experience all round.
What were some of Roche Diabetes Care’s key achievements in 2021?
We had quite a few notable achievements, the first being the Accu-Chek Instant system, our latest blood glucose meter, which came onto drug tariff earlier this year. The key thing with the Instant system is the connectivity – it connects to the mySugr app via Bluetooth for quick and easy automatic logging. It then allows for connection to the Care Platform as well.
The second notable achievement is that we are in the process of starting to introduce the Care Platform to customers around the country, and the initial feedback has been very positive, which I’m delighted to see so that’s been great.
We have some pilot sites with the Care Platform and we’re keen to learn from the NHS what works and how it fits within the day to day practice. I think it’s great that we’re coming up with this innovation as a company but we have to make sure that aligns with what the NHS is doing and what the patients’ needs are as well, so it’s a very collaborative approach about how we take it forward.
We understand how that model of care works within the patient pathway and we are working with pilot sites where we can learn about how this is going to be the most value to people with diabetes. We also have the ability to start to upgrade the Care Platform, being a service and a software, to provide real value to healthcare professionals. It’s not a destination with the Care Platform, it’s definitely a journey and we will hopefully evolve that to get the best possible service.
The third big thing for us is the collaboration with Diabetes UK. We’ve just started a piece of work to understand and tackle some of the inequalities in accessing diabetes care in ethnically diverse populations across four English regions.
How do you see the project with Diabetes UK achieving its goals?
I think this is the exciting part of the project in that we don’t know the outcome and we don’t have all the answers, so we’re going to take a test-and-learn approach to tackling this problem.
What we’re hoping to achieve in conjunction with Diabetes UK is to really understand what the issues to accessing care and services really are, and explore how we can address some specific needs.
We’ve put in place a series of milestones along the way, and we’ve scheduled regular meetings. Once we start to get feedback and data from the four areas of England that will inform the next stage of the process. It will be iterative but what we’re trying to do is cast the net widely and make sure that we are capturing the real data of what’s happening for people with diabetes and healthcare professionals on the ground.
I think everybody has a good idea that there’s definitely an issue in accessing diabetes care and services for some people but we don’t know what it is specifically, and how can we then address the problem. That is where the collaboration is going to be absolutely crucial, and that will probably look different in different parts of the country.
What in your opinion does the future of diabetes care look like in the UK?
Well, I would like to consider myself an optimist and from somebody who has come from outside into the industry, it’s great to see the amount of innovation and investment that’s moving into this space. I think there’s an awful lot of research emerging that aligns with the NHS’ objectives around trying to manage where treatment and patient-physician interactions happen.
For people with diabetes I think it’s just really important about how we help to manage that in the right setting, and provide them with the right tools and information to feel empowered to make their own decisions.
On the healthcare professional side, you probably don’t have to look too far in a newspaper to read about how there’s a lot of very tired, very busy people in the NHS and that’s been going on for a long time. Even without the pandemic we’ve been considering how we can help to ease the burden. If we can do that with digital enablement, for me that feels a very positive step in the right direction.
Not only is that going to help us to support people with diabetes more effectively, but also healthcare professionals are still dealing with a wide range of issues and there’s a lot of pressure on their time at the moment so anything we can do to manage that more effectively makes the whole process more sustainable.