The past year threw the same hurdles in the way of Dexcom that it did every other major company. CEO Kevin Sayer told us how it responded.
Dexcom chairman, president & CEO Kevin Sayer had to prioritize the health of his employees over all else, while also keeping patients safe and somehow managing to keep the diabetes giant rolling as a business.
“Anybody who says they’re prepared for something like this, they’re better than me,” Sayer told Medical Design & Outsourcing. “I think we’re just learning as we go.”
As the majority of businesses around the country did, Dexcom sent as many employees home as possible to keep them safe. For those who still had to work in-person, the San Diego-based company devised safer ways to do so.
While many across the world sought to cut costs and save money, the diabetes technology developer went in the opposite direction, increasing compensation over an extended period of time to make sure employees who had to make, for example, daycare payments so they could come into work, had additional funds for that.
“People who choose to work at Dexcom are some of the most creative people in the universe. They figured out ways to get their jobs done,” Sayer said. “We have to take care of our people if we’re going to ask our people to do extraordinary things. We need to compensate them for that and we did. We asked them to come in and not miss a beat on the manufacturing side because our patients can’t live without this product.”
The focus on making sure employees were taken care of was followed by a turn to keeping Dexcom’s patients safe during the pandemic. The company shifted some strategies as Sayer saw telehealth coming to the fore — and he doesn’t see it going away. Remote physician visits will remain a part of Dexcom’s plan, while Sayer intends to develop tools to grow that aspect of the business.
The pandemic also enabled Dexcom to help some patients it normally wouldn’t have access to. Because COVID-19 can severely affect those with diabetes, the FDA did not object to hospitals using Dexcom’s G6 continuous glucose monitoring system, which is indicated for at-home use. Sayer said nearly 250 U.S. hospitals contacted Dexcom, with more than 100 using the G6 CGM to manage patients’ glucose values so staff can respond to other health issues.
According to the American Diabetes Association’s most recent data, in 2018, 34.2 million Americans, or 10.5% of the population, had diabetes. The percentage of Americans age 65 and older — seen as the highest-risk population for COVID-19 — remains high, at 26.8%, or 14.3 million seniors (diagnosed and undiagnosed).
Underserved communities and ethnic minorities (Black and Hispanic, predominantly) have also been hit hard by the pandemic and the diabetes numbers are unfavorable for those groups as well. The rates of diagnosed diabetes in adults are 12.5% in Hispanics and 11.7% in non-Hispanic Black people.
The volume of at-risk populations across the board whose diabetes makes them more vulnerable to the virus only puts further pressure on Dexcom to do all it can to keep its patients safe, according to Sayer.
“We’ll just keep chugging along,” he said. “One of my own credos is, ‘You don’t ever ask anybody to do what you won’t do.’ And I think my leadership team has just been great at this as far as being engaged on calls day and night, as available as we can possibly be, and we’ll continue to do stuff.”
While working to protect employees and patients alike, Dexcom also had to react to the growing unrest across the globe following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
“When, when this all started, the first thing I did was picked up the phone and called some friends, board members and other people at Dexcom saying, ‘OK, what am I missing here?’ Sayer said. “Because I need to understand this and have a better perspective. I think we can all learn and have better perspectives.”
Sayer said a company the size of Dexcom — with 3,900 full-time employees listed on its annual report at the end of 2019 and continuing to grow — means it has added responsibility for social issues like the ones raised by Floyd’s death. The company has what Sayer calls a “high-powered” diversity and inclusion council and several employee resource groups that meet regularly to determine how Dexcom can improve its diversity and inclusion efforts. Sayer added that he is always open to suggestions on how he and Dexcom can continue to improve.
“What could come out of this on our side is more individual development and more thought going into hiring,” Sayer said. “As we’re in remote locations around the U.S., let’s make sure that we reflect the population we’re serving. … We’re getting better and we’re going to be better.”
And while Dexcom puts its energy into handling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest resulting in Floyd’s killing, the business is doing as Sayer hoped it would — chugging along.
The company began the year with revenue guidance of approximately $1.7 billion, having finished 2019 with sales of nearly $1.5 billion. At its investor day on Dec. 9, Sayer announced that Dexcom’s guidance for 2020 is now $1.9 billion. At the start of 2018, Dexcom projected revenues of $2.3 billion by 2023, and as 2020 comes to a close, the company is just $400 million away from that with time on its side. “We can’t ask for much more than that,” Sayer said of the revenues.
William Blair analyst Margaret Kaczor listed Dexcom as one of her firm’s “best-sounding names” coming out of the third quarter and highlighted potential growth of 20% or more through 2022.
“We expect share momentum can be supported by near- and long-term commercial and product catalysts as well as an increasingly profitable business model,” Kaczor’s analysis said. “Further, while still early, we expect Dexcom will continue to execute on expensing its [total available market] into new opportunities such as hospital use and gestational diabetes, which could support durable long-term growth.”
Sayer joined Dexcom as president and COO in 2011, having previously served as CFO of Biosensors International and before that, as CFO of MiniMed from 1994 until its acquisition by Medtronic in 2001. He holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Accounting and Information Systems from Brigham Young University.
He remains confident that the company is growing, not only in its efforts to create a safe and healthy environment but in its plans to move forward with its CGM technology. Bumps in the road are inevitable, but the executive only sees success ahead for Dexcom.
“The company’s never been in a better place,” Sayer said. “Where we’ll have hiccups due to COVID like everybody else next year — I probably don’t know what they are, but we have a great group and we know our mission. We will manage through it and we’ll always be upfront with everybody about where we are.”