Today Cardiogram, maker of a smartwatch app that uses a deep neural network technology to detect various heart conditions, announced that it has cut a deal with Oscar Health — the first such healthcare insurer agreement for the startup.
As part of the new agreement, Oscar Health members will be able to enter their insurance information and then download the Cardiogram app. While the Cardiogram app is free to download, Oscar members will be able to access Cardiogram Care within the app without a copay or deductible.
“You will be monitored for signs of diabetes and atrial fibrillation, and if it turns out you are at a high risk for one of these conditions you will be offered a confirmatory test, so a blood test or an ECG," Brandon Ballinger, cofounder of Cardiogram, told MobiHealthNews. "And if that confirms you have that condition, then you will be referred to an in network for physician for Oscar.”
Ballinger stressed that it isn’t just about the tech component, but about working toward a new type of care model.
“So it is not just an algorithm or technology — it is a full clinical workflow that guides Oscar members to treatment and better health,” he said.
The program is designed to cater to healthy users as well as individuals managing a condition. Ballinger said that the technology lets users monitor their resting heart rate, sleep and stress. And in addition to detecting conditions, members already managing a condition can share their data with a doctor — thanks to a feature added in January.
WHY IT MATTERS
Heart conditions are the leading cause of death in the US. Atrial fibrillation impacts between 2.7 and 6.1 million people in the US, according to the CDC. Chances of the condition increase with age, impacting around 9 percent of people over the age of 65, according to the agency.
Cardiogram is pitching its technology as a way to detect heart conditions and diabetes early on and better manage the condition. Ballinger said he sees combining consumer technologies like wearables with health detection tools as the way of the future.
“We think about Cardiogram as being primary care for the future, built on the wearables of today,” he said. “You probably see your primary care physician once a year but you are opening your Cardiogram app three times a day, so your engagement in these apps is so much more frequent than it is with the conventional healthcare system. So we think over time people are going to be looking at an app on their phone, like Cardiogram as a front door into the healthcare system. And part of our job is to identify if someone has unknown risks and route them.”
WHAT'S THE TREND
More and more payers are looking to consumer-grade wearables as a way to engage and monitor members. At the end of January Aetna (which was recently acquired by CVS) and Apple announced a new wellness program, dubbed Attain, that will leverage health data, a custom app and the Apple Watch.
UnitedHealthcare announced in November that members of its incentive-based program “Motion” will be able to track their daily activity using their personal Apple Watch, or will be able to buy one in the future.
Cardiogram was first launched in 2016 by Ballinger and cofounder Johnson Hsieh, both former Google technologists. The company started with validation studies. In 2017 the startup’s mRhythm Study showed that the Cardiogram’s algorithm can detect atrial fibrillation with 97 percent accuracy. This was followed by another study where Cardiogram and UC San Francisco’s Health eHeart Study found that the technology was able to detect hypertension and sleep apnea.
This isn’t the first time the company has dipped its toes in the insurance space. It made a deal with Amica Life and Greenhouse Life Insurance that provided users of the Cardiogram app $1,000 in accidental death insurance for free, while the insurer was be able to look at the user’s data from wearables.
ON THE RECORD
“We would ultimately like Cardiogram to be covered by every insurer,” Ballinger said. “Just like a doctor’s visit is covered by every health plan, we actually think monitoring from wearables should be part of every health plan. So this is definitely a first step.”