Anthem Blue Cross, a BCBS plan that covers the state of California, is the first of several Anthem payers nationwide to launch a pilot with Kurbo Health to use its app and online coaching to help treat childhood obesity. The initial pilot includes 100 young patients. Anthem is also working with San Benito Medical Associates, a local provider in the California county with the highest incidence of childhood obesity.
"This really demonstrates the increasing commitment, connectivity and relationship between an insurer, a provider, a child, and a family, to focus on health and figure out a way to collectively address these health issues," Ruth Raskas, who leads Anthem’s Community Health team, told MobiHealthNews. "And I think this very much aligns with many things you see across the country in terms of innovation and provider-insurer relationships. I think these kinds of collaborations are just very exciting ways to try to address health and affordability."
San Benito physicians will select candidates for the pilot out of the Anthem members in their patient populations. They'll focus on children with a BMI in the 85th percentile. If parents agree to participate, they will download the Kurbo app, which offers weekly one-on-one digital coaching with a Kurbo coach, a manual entry food tracker that assigns colors (red, yellow, and green) to different foods so that children understand at a basic level which foods are healthy and unhealthy, and games that reinforce healthy choices. Providers will also be able to view data from the tracker portion in their own dashboard.
"We were looking for something that was innovative that we thought could meaningfully impact children, their family, and their health and had shown results that really demonstrated that that difference could happen. My team has explored a number of different apps in the healthcare space," Raskas said. "I think we were particularly excited about Kurbo because of the combination of the creativity within the app, the component that was both the physical activity piece as well as healthy eating, and that there was also this interactive coaching program."
Children will be enrolled for three months, with the option to continue for an additional three months. Then, if the pilot goes well, Anthem will look into integrating it as a permanent offering.
"We obviously looked carefully at the results that Kurbo had seen thus far," Raskas said. "We’re impressed with their initial results: 90 percent of the children maintained or reduced weight. Of those who reduced the weight, around 58 percent reduced their BMI by over 3 percent and 20 percent reduced it by over 7 percent. But obviously, something we want to be able to see is, if we use this pilot, and when we are partnering with Kurbo, what happens in the physician practices that we’re engaged with. If, in fact, we can see these or better results, we’ll want to expand it beyond where it is today."
Anthem is exploring this technology on a national level, not just in California. Even before this pilot is complete, Raskas said, the national entity is launching similar pilots in several other regions.
Anthem Blue Cross is not the first major payer to deploy Kurbo's platform. Last fall Humana, after completing two pilots of the program, offered its employer customers the option to add a 12-month subscription to Kurbo Health as a wellness benefit for their employees. At the time, Kurbo CEO Joanna Strober told MobiHealthNews the startup was also working with five large employers directly and a few other insurance companies, in addition to a few pilots with Medicaid plans.