Can 70-year-olds lose weight with digital health? Omada, Humana data says yes

By Jonah Comstock
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Omada HealthOmada Health, the digital health company that's created a remote, digital version of the Diabetes Prevention Program, has released data from a cohort of 500 Medicare Advantage beneficiaries with an average age of 70. The cohort had access to Omada Health via Humana, which has worked with Omada for some time and recently made a strategic investment in the company.

"It was an open question even for us what results would look like in the 55-plus group," Omada CEO Sean Duffy told MobiHealthNews. "Medicare Advantage can be a little ahead of the curve on realizing their members are using technology in new ways, but it still can be an open question. ... I think collectively Omada and Humana have been dispelling the myth that digital health can’t reach folks that are older."

The Medicare Advantage cohort had an 85 percent engagement rate after six months. The participants lost an average of 8.7 percent of their body weight at six months, a reduction that's associated with a 71 percent reduction in Type 2 diabetes risk. The cohort actually did better than the average results for a younger population.

This isn't entirely a surprise, Duffy said: In the original face-to-face program Omada was based on there was a positive correlation between age and results. The surprise was that a gap in technological savvy didn't undermine that trend. Omada Health's version of the DPP includes a connected weight scale, online virtual health coaching and use of a mobile or web app for tracking. In fact, they found that the older people had no problem with the technology, once it was sufficiently explained to them.

"There are a couple features in the program where we don’t really formally tell people about them until certain phases, but if you explore enough you can find them on your own, and that’s deliberate," Duffy said. "So one interesting insight is, we actually saw an under-index of folks in the 55-plus program finding those features on their own. But when they were introduced in the formal part of the curriculum, we saw this group over-engage well over the benchmarks. They may not take the extra lengths to explore and jump into new territory on their own, but the second they get good education on how to use it, they’re even more in it than other folks."

Another insight, not entirely surprising, was that the Medicare Advantage cohort was much more likely to use the web app over the mobile portal than the general population.

Omada and Humana have had this data for a little while, and have already put it into action, launching additional programs with other Humana Medicare Advantage populations.

And it may not be long before the program can be extended to fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries as well. This data is being released at an interesting time politically, as Congress considers a bill that would allow fee-for-service Medicare programs to reimburse for the Diabetes Prevention Program, including Omada Health.