(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Baltimore startup emocha is working with a local healthcare organization on a new pilot that brings its mobile video technology to Type 2 diabetes patients in the city.
The partnership between the health IT startup and University of Maryland Health Partners is designed to ensure patients stick to medication plans.
Here’s how the program works, according to emocha:
- Patients record themselves taking medication using emocha’s app, and submit a daily check-in video.
- Each patient is patient with an Adherence Coach from emocha who reviews the videos to ensure the medication is taken as prescribed and provides encouragement.
- At the end of the three-month program, patients who achieve a certain adherence rate get a $100 gift certificate.
For emocha, the pilot has a couple of new approaches. The focus on Type 2 diabetes patients represents a different disease area than past efforts we’ve covered. CEO Sebastian Seiguer said the company’s platform can be used on different kinds of conditions. Rather than treating a specific disease or tracking a certain treatment, it’s designed to help ensure that patients are taking medication. Known as medication adherence, it’s an area that health specialists are trying to improve, as studies have shown as many as half of patients with chronic diseases don’t take medication as prescribed.
— emocha (@emochaHealth) December 12, 2018
With Type 2 diabetes, patients take medication to control their blood sugar. Beyond introducing specific treatments, more engagement by health professionals with patients can help them stay healthier and out of emergency rooms and clinics, said UMHP Vice President of External Affairs James Davis.
“Diabetes is one of those diseases…we can make inroads purely on medication adherence,” he said.
emocha is also bringing the coaching in-house. In work such as its partnership with county health departments in California on tuberculosis, the videos and reviews are conducted by the government staff.
“In this case it’s a mixture, where we’ve got service providers accessing the system and we’re doing the coaching,” Seiguer said.
The startup added Baltimore-based adherence coaches to its team who communicate directly with the patients.
“If they’ve submitted, there might be questions,” Seiguer said. “If they miss [a dose], they may be sending a quick message through the app or even calling them.”
Total Health Care, a provider with nine locations in Baltimore city, is also providing resources if the organizations need additional support.
UMHP sees value in the patients’ interaction with the technology, as well as the coaches. The public health–oriented organization sees engagement as key to addressing medication adherence, said Davis.
“Even if they go once a month it’s not enough interaction to help people stay healthy and get better, so the technology that emocha provides and this pilot of having a smartphone that can be used…every day to make sure they’re feeling better, feeling good” is helpful, Davis said. The interaction offers “that warm touch you can’t get through a regular phone call,” he said.
The organizations are starting small with this pilot, as about 10-15 patients will be enrolled. But emocha is looking to grow the coaching service, and recently brought on Director of Operations Lamar Smith to take the lead on creating the service. Seiguer sees potential to expand to other locations beyond Baltimore.
The FastForward 1812–based startup’s 13-member team is also seeing further support for the type of technology it offers at the federal level. A new fee schedule issued by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will allow federally-qualified health centers and providers to be reimbursed for the review of a recorded, patient-submitted photo or video to assess the patient’s condition. That means a physician or nurse could review a video and work with a patient using a platform such as emocha, then get reimbursed.
Seiguer said the moves indicate that the federal government is encouraging the use of new tech tools. Having the software as a service platform and the coaching service in place is “huge for us with new billing possibilities in 2019,” Seiguer said.
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