Hello Alpha, a virtual primary care platform, has launched a weight management program for employers that supports sustained weight loss through the lens of whole-person primary care.
The program, Ahead with Alpha, treats and screens for health needs by combining weight loss support with care for more than 100 other medical conditions. The approach combines cost-saving benefits with rapidly-evolving innovations in obesity medicine, the company said.
Members in the program also receive weight loss support like medication management, nutrition counseling with a registered dietitian and progress tracking. And, the program will migrate patients who have successfully lost weight into a lower-cost maintenance program.
Hello Alpha has treated more than 50,000 patients with excess weight and, on average, they experience a sustained 15% reduction in body mass index after 10 or more months in the program, executives said in a press release. That experience has endowed Hello Alpha with expertise in prior authorization, step therapy and formulary management, they said.
“Health can't be measured in just one metric, as many point solutions claim,” Gloria Lau, Hello Alpha’s co-founder and CEO, said in a press release. “These fragmented solutions that focus on only one aspect of health are creating point-solution fatigue and skepticism. Employers are questioning if these siloed programs deliver real ROI.”
To contain costs, patients should be treated holistically, she added: “Whole-person primary care is the answer.”
The trendy new class of weight loss drugs has created enormous demand and off-label use, which has contributed to supply challenges in recent months. In 2022, more than 5 million prescriptions for Ozempic, (tirzepatide), Rybelsus (semaglutide) or Wegovy were written for weight management, compared to just over 230,000 in 2019.
GLP-1 medications support weight loss by helping the brain and body regulate metabolism and help people feel full longer. Some providers report being worried about the long-term effects of off-label use. Meanwhile, many digital health companies have begun offering the drugs while payers have reportedly tightened rules around off-label coverage, at least for now.
The medications’ high price tag has employers seeking cost-effective solutions with results, Hello Alpha said. The company acknowledges that GLP-1s may not be right for everyone; a holistic approach is what makes its new program cost-effective.
“We can and do prescribe GLP-1s when appropriate, but not all patients are candidates for those medications and other therapies may be the preferred approach,” Mary Jacobson, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Hello Alpha, said in a press release. “A trusting patient-provider relationship developed through whole-person care helps patients adhere to their weight care plans and reinforces that health is not just a number on a scale.”
Since Hello Alpha also routinely screens for and treats mental health concerns, it can monitor for potential adverse effects, which is “particularly important given recent concerns from EU regulators about depression and suicidal ideation that may accompany GLP-1 medications,” Jacobson added.