Anthem, the second-largest insurer in the U.S., has teamed up with Apple and other such tech device manufacturing companies to study the use of tech tools for managing chronic conditions like asthma.
The insurer has appointed U.C .Irvine and the health-tech company CareEvolution to carry out the study, all to be done visually so as to not endanger the participants in these contagion times.
About 1.8 million people end up in emergency rooms from asthma each year in the US. 1 in 14 people overall have the condition. The study will be conducted over a two-year period and will collect data from Apple Watch and iPhone to predict potentially serious outcomes, leading to hospitalization.
Anthem has become involved in the project as asthma forms a big part of its health costs. The insure intends to recruit a diverse study population, especially the lower income group.
“We know individuals enrolled in Medicaid disproportionately bear the burden of asthma, often resulting in relying on the healthcare system more,” noted Warris Bokhari, Vice President of Digital Care Delivery. “Having this makeup of study population will help us ensure our outcomes are representative.”
“As part of our mission of improving people’s lives, we are making it easier for consumers to proactively manage their health through our digital-first approach to delivering healthcare solutions and services,” said Rajeev Ronanki, Chief Digital Officer at Anthem, Inc. “Millions of Americans are struggling with their asthma condition each day and we’re thrilled to collaborate with UCI, Apple and CareEvolution on studying new solutions.”
In 2019, Apple acquired Tueo Health, a startup involved in monitoring asthma detection in children. The company’s co-founder Bronwyn Harris still works at Apple Health, although Apple has not specified if there’s a link between the two projects.
The Anthem health study though will be concentrating on adults for the moment.
The cohort number will be 900 asthma patients between the ages of 18 and 64. Participants will need to be a member of a health plan run by Anthem or one of its affiliates and must have their own iPhone.
The study participants will be divided into two groups, a study group and a control gorup. The study group will be given an Apple Watch and a Beddit sleep monitor. The control group will not get any devices. (The study is designed as a randomized control trial, which aims to reduce bias when testing the effectiveness of a treatment or intervention.)
The active group will be constantly monitored on its symptoms by the digital asthma tool that includes daily symptom and trigger tracking to provide awareness of asthma control and personalized nudges based on changes in signals from their Apple Watch including activity, heart rate, the new Blood Oxygen feature and other health metrics, says the press statement.
The control group will continue with its normal asthma regime but will be asked to fill in regular surveys.
“Personalized medicine and improving the health of populations are based on similar principles. The human body contains critical information – data – necessary to diagnose and treat our patients,” said Dr. Steve Goldstein, vice chancellor for health affairs at UCI. “Through innovation and emerging technologies, we are able to harness that data, and by coupling it with an individual’s environment and experiences, chart pathways to lifelong health and well-being. Public-private collaborations like this one with UCI, Anthem and Apple, are fueled by the passion to serve and shared an entrepreneurial spirit, and are helping us establish new standards of whole-person care for our patients.”
Apple has lined up some other medical partnerships, including with the University Health Network and the University of Toronto in Canada to follow how Apple Watch metrics, can be used to manage heart failure.
Apple is also involved with the Seattle Flu Study and faculty at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine to track changes in blood oxygen and heart rate to forestall the onset of influenza and COVID-19.
Apple is also partnering with the government of Singapore on the health initiative LumiHealth, which will encourage healthy lifestyle changes through technology.
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