App aids patient engagement, speeds intervention in Crohn’s cases

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A software application that improves patient engagement and monitoring also pays benefits in reducing the annual cost to manage the condition of patients with Crohn’s disease.

A study involving Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois with the developer of the application found that patients with Crohn's disease using care coordination software were more likely to stay out of the hospital, and annual medical costs for 176 Crohn’s disease patients were $6,500 less than a control group of patients who didn’t use the program.

The Illinois blues plan partnered with SonarMD to conduct the two-year study that showed the software resulted in fewer Crohn’s-related hospital stays, and outpatient visits, says Lawrence Kosinski, a gastroenterologist who is the founder and chief medical officer at SonarMD.

BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, a corporate venture fund licensed by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is an investor in SonarMD, which raised $10 million in funding this past December.

The vendor’s clinical staff uses the software to connect with patients, calculate risk and coordinate care, regularly pinging patients with clinical questions they answer via text, email or a phone call. Based on data and patient responses, the software calculates a clinical score that correlates with symptom intensity. These scores are tracked over time to more closely determine which patients are most at risk, and work with patient’s clinicians to interview if necessary.

“The results of this research demonstrates how an innovative approach to patient engagement and monitoring can improve access to care, health outcomes and affordability,” says Derek Robinson, MD, vice president and chief medical officer at the Blues plan.

For now, patients cannot download the mobile app. SonarMD contracts with payers and works with gastroenterologists in the payer’s network. Then, SonarMD works directly with those specialists to get patients on board.

“As a Crohn’s patient, I don’t always recognize when my body is trying to tell me something because I think my symptoms are just par for the course,” says Tami Speten, a patient that uses coordination software from SonarMD.

Speten started using the software when her flare-ups became too frequent and she needed to be monitored more often. Now, she receives a text message monthly with six questions to be answered, such as the number of loose stools daily and whether there is blood in them, and based on that and other questions, a score is generated that compares to the previous month’s score. If this month’s score is not good, she needs to call the doctor.

“When you are just living from day to day, it’s easy to push off scores, but SonarMD will realize that something is wrong and notify the doctor, and clinical staff will call if they are concerned,” she explains. Overall, the process of using SonarMD to better comply with treatment regimens is rather easy and strengthens the doctor-patient relationship, according to Speten.

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