Vida Health shows effectiveness at combating weight and other health issues, study shows

By Jeff Lagasse
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San Francisco-based digital health coaching startup Vida Health has demonstrated in the past that it’s effective at helping people lose weight, but The Journal of Internet Medicine recently published a study from the University of California San Francisco that quantifies this efficacy.

Almost 29 percent of participants lost an average of 9.5 percent of their body weight; 86 percent of those with stage 2 high blood pressure reversed to stage 1; and 76 percent of those with stage 1 high blood pressure reversed to prehypertension.

Overall, 49 percent of participants with high blood pressure improved by an entire hypertensive stage, while 76 percent of those who stuck it out for a full 16 weeks lost between 3.2 to 33.6 percent of their total body weight.

That has translated into some pretty high user satisfaction ratings. Vida received an average satisfaction rating of 9.91 out of 10. A full 90 percent of participants completed 16 weeks with Vida.

“We attribute our success to combining a human touch with evidence-based clinical programs and advanced machine learning technology,” said Stephanie Tilenius, Vida Health CEO. “This allows us to understand the complexity of chronic disease and what it takes to truly change behaviors.”

Individuals can join Vida on their own, she said, but it’s more common for them to join through Vida’s partnerships with employers, providers and health systems -- such as Duke University and Stanford.

“When participants get the Vida app on their mobile device they first tell us what their health goals are, like ‘lose weight’ or ‘manage diabetes,’” said Tilenius. “Then they share their preferences, like coaching style: Some people want a drill sergeant while others want a softer touch. We then match them with an evidenced-based program and a coach who specializes in their goals and aligns with their preferences. The individual selects their coach and they kick things off with a video consultation or phone call. This all happens through our app, available on iTunes or Google Play.”

A personalized action plan follows, and the user logs their data, tracking things like stress levels, energy levels, hunger and anything else the coach thinks will help. They get daily support and motivation through the app’s chat feature, and have weekly check-ins with their coaches to assess progress and modify their plan as needed.

Vida first hinted at its effectiveness a year ago, when, in a deployment with UnitedHealthcare, the health coaching startup was able to reduce weight and blood pressure in a group of 1,000 high-BMI patients across three states. More than 58 percent of the population saw weight loss and more than 30 percent lost more than 5 percent of their body weight. What’s more, at the start of that five-month period, 31 percent of the group had systolic blood pressure over 140; the coaching reduced that to 11 percent. Just 15 percent had blood pressure under 120 at the start of the intervention, and by the end Vida increased that number to 32 percent.

“Our mission is to eradicate chronic disease, once and for all,” said Tilenius. “We believe that in order to make that happen we have to treat individuals as more than just disease states. We have to look at the whole person and realize that one-size-fits all approaches aren't going to cut it. We have to seek the truth: the truth behind our conditions and behaviors. It's not just the human touch that defines Vida's approach. It’s the courage to get to the truth.”

In December 2016, Vida Health raised $18 million in a funding round led by Canvas Ventures, and it used that funding to scale up its mobile coaching platform and expand its workforce.

The Vida platform pairs people one-on-one with human coaches to manage chronic conditions or improve their health overall through behavior change. Individuals can talk to their coach using text, voice or video in real-time, and they can also connect to a supportive community including friends, family, doctors, coaches or people with similar conditions.

Vida’s clients mainly include providers, payers, and self-insured employers, but they have also worked with a pharmaceutical company -- they created a program last year for AstraZeneca within its app. Provider partners include Duke University, MD Anderson Cancer Center and Stanford University. Employers include eBay, furniture company SteelCase and boat supply chain West Marine.