Blue Cross NC teams with Virta Health, Carrot on diabetes management, tobacco cessation

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is launching two new digital programs targeting smoking cessation and Type 2 diabetes management next month at no cost to members.

Blue Cross NC will partner with Carrot to offer its smoking cessation platform Pivot and with Virta Health to offer its program for diabetes reversal, the insurer announced this week. The platforms will be available to individual under-65 members and fully insured group members beginning in November.

Von Nguyen, M.D., chief medical officer at Blue Cross NC, told Fierce Healthcare that offering members tools like Pivot and Virta that manage and even reverse their chronic conditions is a key component of the company's drive toward value-based care.

"When you think about what we’re doing, it really is about thinking differently about how we pay for healthcare so we can achieve those goals of affordability and high quality care," he said.

These programs specifically, he said, get at costly and common patient conditions that are related to some of the main causes of death in the U.S., including cancer and heart disease.

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Illnesses related to tobacco use cost North Carolina $13 billion each year, Blue Cross NC said, making it a logical condition to target.

Carrot's Pivot platform includes access to trained tobacco experts, nicotine therapy products and a personal breath sensor to track progress. Users will also be able to connect to an online community of other people working to quit for inspiration and support.

A recent clinical study of the platform found that 42% of users successfully quit smoking in the study period, and, after seven months, 86% of those who quit were smoke free.

David Utley, M.D., CEO of Carrot, told Fierce Healthcare Pivot was designed to "completely revamp" traditional approaches to tobacco cessation.

"You can't manage it in person," Utley said. "You have to do it with digital and products that work."

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In addition, Blue Cross NC said more than 3.7 million people in North Carolina, close to half of the adult population in the state, have diabetes. Diabetes is linked to an increased risk for other serious medical conditions, including COVID-19.

Virta uses a digital platform to help users regulate their blood sugar and eliminate the need for diabetes medications. Patients have access to certified clinicians and health coaches nearly around the clock who assist in crafting meal plans and driving behavioral changes.

Within one year with the program, 94% of users either reduced their need for insulin or were able to stop using it entirely.

"Diabetes is indeed a reversible disease, not just anecdotally but systematically," Sami Inkinen, Virta co-founder and CEO, told Fierce Healthcare.