WellCare teams up with Wellth to apply 'behavioral economics' to hypertension management

WellCare Health Plans is partnering with digital health company Wellth to launch a new program to help at-risk Medicaid members better manage their hypertension. 

The companies plan to start with 200 members in New York with hypertension; they will provide medication reminders through Wellth’s app and will offer financial rewards to those who reach certain health goals, such as switching to a low-sodium diet or sustaining medication adherence. 

The initiative is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and will run through August, according to the announcement. At the end of the initial pilot, NIH will also review the results, WellCare said. 

“As a health plan, WellCare is always looking to engage members in their healthcare,” Richard Petrucci, M.D., WellCare’s chief medical officer in New York, told FierceHealthcare. “Hypertension management is key to our patients decreasing long-term complications of high blood pressure, such as heart problems, circulation problems and kidney problems.” 

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Angel Ballew, the insurer’s vice president for pharmacy clinical programs, told FierceHealthcare jumping in made sense because the companies’ goals align well. 

Of particular interest was Wellth’s background in behavioral economics, which studies the impact of emotional, psychological and social factors on economic choices—an area she said is “fairly unexplored” in its applications in medication adherence. 

WellCare reaches 151,000 Medicaid members in New York, according to the announcement, making for a significant population that could benefit from this intervention. Should the results prove positive, the pilot could be scaled up in the future to reach more people. 

The two are also mulling potential uses for Wellth’s platform beyond hypertension, Ballew said.