Pilot of Kiio’s digital back pain therapy reports improved outcomes among those who used it

Plan members who took to the platform reduced their medical expences and filled fewer prescriptions, while outcomes remained similar or become worse for those who did not engage.
By Dave Muoio
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Kiio, maker of an app-based back pain therapy program for health systems and employers, today released data from a one-year pilot of its product. Conducted within the Quartz Health Solutions health plan system, the results suggest that patients who are provided with and use Kiio’s platform experienced decreases in medical spending, visits, filled opioid prescriptions, and other spinal pain-related outcomes compared to those who received, but did not engage with, the intervention.

“These are significant results and typical of the benefits we see across the board with our partners,” David Grandin, founder and CEO of Kiio, said in a statement. “Low back pain affects a significant portion of the population — one out of every three adults in the United States every year. Traditional approaches lack consistent effectiveness, leading to unnecessary suffering, rampant medical and disability costs, and lost productivity. Low back pain is also the number one cause of opioid prescriptions, and the impact of the opioid epidemic on our communities is incalculable.”

Launched in February 2017, the invite-only pilot enrolled 515 Quartz plan members, who were screened prior to receiving invites and offered no financial compensation for participation. These members were provided access to a customized care program consisting of digitally-led exercises, virtual coaching, and one-on-one contact with Quartz’s coaches. Pain education and additional engagement efforts were added to the program post pilot.

Participating plan members were split into two separate groups in the analysis. The “Kiio group” consisted of those who used the digital program long enough to progress beyond the first level of exercises, whereas the “reference group” was comprised of members who were provided with the program but did not proceed beyond the first exercise level, or did not engage with the program whatsoever. Of note, the case study did not report the specific number of members who fell into each group, or include any comparisons to members who were not invited to receive the intervention.

When compared to past claims and outcomes going as far back as February 2015, analysis of low-back-pain-related medical spending decreased 55 percent in the high-engagement group. Further, no emergency department or urgent care visits were reported among the high-engagement group after enrolling in the program. Conversely, those who were enrolled and fell into the low-or-non-engagement analysis group reported an 81 percent increase in emergency department and urgent care claims.

Filled prescription rates dropped 78 percent and two percent among the high-engagement group and low-or-non-engagement group, respectively, whereas non-opiod prescriptions decreased 33 percent among users and increased 22 percent in their counterparts. When comparing the two groups directly, those who engaged with the Kiio program were 1.8 times less likely to receive a spinal injection, and 3.5 times less likely to receive an MRI.

“Participants say they really appreciate that the program is tailored to their type of back pain, and it delivers the 24-7 anywhere, anytime convenience, flexibility and interactive digital support that helps them achieve success, Lydia Zeller, VP of product strategy at Kiio, said in a statement. "And to us, that is what consumer-centricity is all about.” 

According to the report, Quartz is now planning to roll out the white-labeled program, called MobileBack, for the rest of its members, and to integrate it into primary care.

“Our goals centered around improving member quality of life and easing member access to care,” Dr. Mary Pak, medical director at Quartz, said in a statement. “We achieved that. The reduction in the cost of care was a notable result.”

Pain management is a growing sector within digital health, and lower back pain is no exception. Earlier this month Hinge Health, for instance, received $26 million for its digital musculoskeletal health platform, which includes app-based exercise therapies using wearable sensors, unlimited virtual coaching, and interactive patient education.