Kaiser Permanente, Mount Sinai to study Noom app for eating disorder treatment

By Jonah Comstock
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Noom Coach, the company's current consumer wellness app. Noom Coach, the company's current consumer wellness app.

Wellness app maker Noom will work with both the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai hospital in New York and Kaiser Permanente on a 12-week, 200-person trial of a new mobile health app for eating disorders called Noom Monitor, according to a new posting on ClinicalTrials.gov.

Noom picked up an NIH grant to develop and test Noom Monitor back in October 2013. That study, with 80 participants, was completed in May 2015 according to another ClinicalTrials.gov post, but has yet to publish results. Apparently it was successful enough to warrant a follow-up.

The Noom Monitor app is similar to the existing Noom app, which helps users track their eating habits to facilitate weight management. But it adds check-ins designed to emulate the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy and guided self-help (CBT-GSH), the typical interventions for eating disorders, as well as an interface for the user's therapist to check in on their food logs.

"Although CBT-GSH for bulimia nerviosa and binge-eating disorder is effective, few individuals receive these treatments and the majority of other available treatments do not meet adequate standards for care for eating disorders," the posting reads. "... The primary CBT-GSH intervention is self-monitoring, a uniquely effective technique for reducing binge eating episodes; however, traditional self-monitoring is time-intensive and cumbersome because of its paper-and-pencil format. In addition, other behavioral strategies utilized in CBT-GSH (e.g., the development of regular eating) require a high degree of participant engagement outside of session. Novel technologies, such as those available with smartphones, offer potentially important means for reducing participant burden in the delivery of CBT-GSH."

The app will be tested by a large population of real-world eating disorder patients in the Kaiser Permanente healthcare system. A control group will be free to use any care options currently available to KP patients with eating disorders. Researchers will check in with patients at four, eight, and 12 weeks and then again for three, six, and 12-month follow-ups. They will assess frequency of objective binge episodes, shape and weight concerns, global eating pathology in the group that used the app and the group that didn't.

The ClinicalTrials.gov posting confirms that Noom Monitor is headed to the commercial market if the study goes well. Per the posting, secondary purpose of the study is to "establish a database of training materials" for Noom Monitor and "the efficacy and product development aims of this proposal will be used to support the commercial launch of Noom Monitor, a smartphone platform."

Although Noom originally launched as a consumer weight loss app company, it now makes several offerings focused on chronic conditions. When the company raised $1 million last January, it teamed up with pharma company Hanmi to develop a program that pairs Noom Health, Noom’s B2B behavior change program, with the company’s pharmaceuticals. Noom has raised more than $25 million total to date.