Verizon, Ginger.io help pilot mobile intervention for high-cost Medicaid patients

By Jonah Comstock
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GingerioVerizon has teamed up with smartphone health monitoring startup Ginger.io in a pilot conceived and run by Centerstone Research Institute to create a mobile health intervention that's already been tested in one small study, with larger studies in the works.

Initially, Centerstone launched a three-month pilot of 10 high Medicaid-utilizer patients (those with more than $25,000 in annual healthcare-related expenses) who had some combination of mental health conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or personality disorders and physical conditions like heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) or diabetes. That pilot began in April.

"Five percent of high-utilizer Medicaid beneficiaries represent more than half of the state Medicaid dollars spent each year,” Tom Doub, CEO of Centerstone Research Institute, said in a statement. “These individuals typically have co-occurring mental and physical disorders that make managing their care difficult. Understanding their needs and finding ways to help them better manage their health is critical in controlling healthcare costs.”

The intervention is known as coactionHealth. Patients were equipped with smartphones, with connectivity supplied by Verizon and various health tracking applications, that they could use to contact a support team. The support team included a consultant, an on-call nurse and a supervising licensed therapist, as well as a wellness coach.

Ginger.io tracked participants' phone use passively and also sent them daily survey questions about their mental wellbeing. Certain answers to these questions would trigger alarms and inform members of the care team, who could then respond to depressive symptoms or suicidal ideations they might otherwise have missed. 

Centerstone reported very positive results from the small study. The cohort avoided hospitalization entirely during the three months, and their needs for home mobility, personal care, nutrition and a safe living environment dropped by 55 percent. The intervention also made participants feel more confident in managing their disease state -- all 10 participants reported confidence in managing their care after the intervention, compared to none beforehand. In addition, one woman lost 20 pounds and dropped below the HbA1c levels for diabetes, and another discovered the root cause of her frequent hospitalizations.

"Providers now have access to more data from more sources than ever before, and connecting that data to physical and mental wellness represents an enormous opportunity to improve outcomes,” said Anmol Madan, co-founder and CEO of Ginger.io. “We’re helping providers shift from an episodic view of their patients’ health to a continuous and more comprehensive understanding of personal health trends. The CRI program shows how targeted outreach and an improved patient-provider connection can empower patients to take control of their own health.”

Centerstone is launching a second pilot right now with 50 participants. Another, set to begin at another site on November 1st, will include 60 patients.