Story Health and Saint Luke's team up for virtual afib care program

Virtual cardiac care company Story Health and Kansas City’s Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute co-launched a new virtual health coaching and remote monitoring program for patients with atrial fibrillation. 

Between high demand for specialists and increasing specialist care deserts, Story’s virtual cardiac care programs provide patients with access to health coaches and remote physiologic monitoring services. The continuous care model gives patients more support through their diagnosis and treatment and also allows cardiologists to spend their clinic time more effectively, Tom Stanis, CEO and co-founder of Story Health, told Fierce Healthcare. 

“Once you have lifesaving care at the hospital, sometimes it can be difficult to actually get care at home with all the things that you need help with between visits, and everything like that,” Stanis said. “And I think there's a huge demand crisis right now that we're seeing in specialty care where wait times have gone too long. Specialists are overwhelmed with referrals. So they need as much help as possible.”

Story Health also helps specialty providers expand their practices by supporting patients outside the clinic. Not maximizing in-clinic time is “the limiting factor for many of their practices,” Stanis said.

Patients can engage with Story Health after a clinic or hospital visit in which they have been diagnosed with afib. Post-clinic, patients meet with their assigned health coach to establish a care plan, answer questions and start at-home monitoring. 

Story says the model works particularly well for a condition like afib that occurs episodically, not when a patient is sitting in the office. “Waiting for a patient to come in for a visit, which may or may not be the right time, frankly, is a very inefficient way of using their time,” Stanis said.

One of Saint Luke’s primary cardiologists on the project, Sanjaya Gupta, M.D., told Fierce Healthcare the program aims to provide “seamless and continuous management of afib … without creating an undue burden on healthcare providers and [without being] cost prohibitive.”

The collaboration between Story and Saint Luke’s began through proximity. Story was already conducting a randomized controlled trial of heart failure patients at the Mid America Heart Institute when clinicians expressed a desire to create a digital health program for afib. Story Health had other virtualized programs for heart conditions like heart failure and high blood pressure but did not yet have a program for afib. 

Saint Luke clinicians Dan Steinhaus, M.D., Jessica Kline, M.D., and Gupta co-developed the afib program collaboratively with Story Health based on the latest afib guidelines and the clinicians’ experience treating afib, Gupta told Fierce Healthcare. 

Story Health’s afib program uses technology embedded in wearable medical devices like an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, which both have electrocardiogram features. Heart rhythm data from those devices are recorded and tracked inside Story Health’s Epic-integrated application. The one-click platform makes the continuously collected data and other important afib information like labs available to a clinician on a single screen within the electronic health record.

With Story Health’s continuous care model, patients can get assistance between clinic visits and be assisted with navigating other providers. Stanis said many afib patients benefit from a sleep study, which may be easier for Story Health’s health coaches to help a patient navigate than their cardiologist. 

Story Health also provides patient education about afib, which reduces pressure on providers and practices.

A key focus of the partnership between Story and Saint Luke’s is to increase access to care for historically marginalized populations. 

“We know patients from underrepresented minorities and barriers to healthcare access have disproportionate incidence of obesity, sleep apnea, diabetes, hypertension and alcohol use, which are all risk factors for developing aFib,” Gupta said. Moreover, minority populations are also less likely to get diagnosed with afib, he said.

Stanis said its health coaches help patients navigate prescription drug discount programs to obtain medications at a more affordable price. If patients lack transportation, Story may be able to send phlebotomists to the home for blood draws, Stanis said. The asynchronous model also can accommodate many schedules so patients can take advantage of health resources on their own time.