UnitedHealthcare, Peerfit push deeper into Medicare Advantage markets, and more digital health news briefs

Also: Smoking cessation app trial wins $2.7 million research grant; favorable study results for One Drop.
By Dave Muoio
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Delving into device data. This year UnitedHealthcare will be expanding its Navigate4Me service for Medicare Advantage plan participants using data collected through digital devices, the payer announced today. Specifically, these data will be processed through the UnitedHealthcare Nerve Center and used to flesh out patient profiles, allowing navigators to provide support for congestive heart failure, diabetes, post-acute care and other conditions.

“We’re building the next generation of care management by moving away from traditional models to a holistic approach that harnesses the power of real-time data and technology to deliver the right kind of individual support that can help people get well and stay well,” Brian Thompson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Medicare and Retirement, said in a statement. “Combining new data-driven insights with the human touch of our care teams will deliver a more personalized health experience.”

Fitness for every age. Digital fitness benefits platform Peerfit has announced that it will be launching a new service in 2020 built specifically for Medicare Advantage plan members. Peerfit Move will work much like its parent service, allowing users to book fitness appointments and gym memberships while connecting to a community of other Peerfit users.

"With our core Peerfit product, we disrupted a legacy industry in corporate wellness. We plan to do the same with Peerfit Move," Peerfit Chairman and CEO Ed Buckley, III, said in a statement. "We want to help build better communities, and offer more access and variety to the Medicare population, and we are thrilled to bring in Luisa and her expertise in the industry to do just that."

Cessation app warrants closer study. The National Cancer Institute has awarded a $2.7 million research grant for the investigation of a digital smoking cessation tool created at the University of Oklahoma Medicine’s Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center and able to anticipate users’ smoking lapse risk. An earlier study of the Smart-T app with 81 participants saw an 22 percent rate of cessation among those randomized to the treatment, as opposed to a 15 percent among those who received in-person counseling or used a National Cancer Institute app. The new funding will support a five-year, 450-person study of the updated app.

"Statistics show that nearly 80 percent of smokers want to quit, but without help, less than 5 percent are successful," Michael Businelle, the researcher who created the app, said in a statement. "People spend a lot of time on their phones, particularly texting and using apps. I see health behavior change services like smoking cessation becoming more and more mobile."

One Drop's favorable results. Among Type 2 diabetes patients using an injectable or inhalable bolus insulin, use of the One Drop Mobile platform was associated with a −.93 percent improvement in absolute A1c, according to data presented by One Drop researchers at the 2019 Advanced Technologies & Treatments for Diabetes conference in Berlin.

"We are thrilled with the results of our IRB-approved, investigator-initiated, pragmatic, randomized controlled trial measuring the A1c impact of One Drop with Afrezza compared to One Drop with injectable bolus insulin," Jeff Dachis, CEO and founder of One Drop, said in a statement.  "As indicated in our significant body of peer-reviewed evidence, A1c significantly improves when people have digital tools and reliable resources to understand how to best use medications. It's very exciting to see these kinds of results, particularly with an innovative product like Afrezza."