Apps, devices not enough to manage chronic care without patient-doc relationships, Omada Health research finds

The Omada Insights Lab, Omada Health’s initiative for evaluating its chronic care management programs, released its first report today suggesting the importance of the patient-provider relationship in improving outcomes.

Omada Health creates chronic care management programs for diabetes, prediabetes and weight management, hypertension, musculoskeletal conditions, and behavioral health issues like anxiety and depression. According to the results from their Insights Lab, launched in April, 94% of members that engaged with health coaches in their first week of care were more likely to achieve their desired health outcomes.

For programs that included weight or diet management, proactive feedback from coaches led to a 10% to 15% increase in meal tracking retention, and members who messaged their coach or specialist experienced two times the weight loss, the lab reported.

Founded in 2011, Omada Health has 500,000 members and reports 88% member satisfaction, with an average 31 points of engagement weekly per member, including activity tracking, meal tracking, weigh-ins, logins and group messages, according to the report.

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Ryan Quan, director of data science at Omada Health and founding member of the Omada Insights Lab, says that for most chronic conditions, relying solely on apps and their engagement functions, like push notifications, for long-term health improvements is simply “not enough.”

“If you’re just measuring how many people open the app, sure, the push notifications work great,” he said in an interview with Fierce Healthcare. “But if you want to look at longitudinal health changes, you might not see any improvements in logging in at all, but if you zoom out, you can see the trajectory of the health measures change. And most of those changes occur when we put the coach as the key arbiter of that intervention.”

Omada saw success in their musculoskeletal programs, too. Data indicate that 98% of members showed improvement in their area of concern with a 27% overall reduction in medical spend per member. Members also reported a 51% average pain reduction and 71% average functional improvement.

Quan acknowledges that virtual coaching is often brushed off as “too expensive” in the digital health boom. From big tech to hospital chains, everyone wants a taste of telehealth, and many solutions don’t ensure sustained one-on-one interactions, often due to cost concerns or labor shortages, he said.

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Omada Health does use an app to facilitate its programs, but Quan said it’s the personalized care teams that make the biggest difference for patients, which he says may be more cost-effective in the long run.

“There’s a theme among our members that they always say—the word is accountability. They frequently say, the reason I want to make a change is I want to make my coach proud, or I know someone might be observing me and guiding me along this journey, and I don’t want to disappoint them,” he said.

Quan wants to “open the hood of the car” in digital health care to encourage evidence-sharing about the efficacy of certain interventions rather than gatekeeping that evidence.

“There’s a lot of garbage products out there,” he said. “Let’s take the example of virtual health coaching to manage or prevent chronic disease—there’s not a lot of evidence, and it’s a fairly unregulated space. So it’s upon the companies to share what they have learned with the industry at large, to say, 'Hey, these are the things that have and haven’t been working for us, so we can all get better together.'”