Anthem has partnered with a digital therapeutics startup to launch a care navigation program for COVID-19 patients.
The insurer, which runs Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states, has partnered with digital therapeutic developer Sidekick Health to create COVID Concierge Care, an app that offers members a daily symptom and outcome tracker, on-demand messaging with a clinical care manager, and articles, videos and other education information to help enrollees best manage their COVID symptoms. Sidekick's app gives patients virtual rewards for adhering to their treatment plans.
Anthem's "tens of thousands" of Medicare Advantage members in New York and Connecticut will initially have access to the app, although the insurer expects a few hundred to actually use the pilot program, said Dr. Eugene Hsu, regional vice president of group retiree solutions for Medicare. Over the course of the next few months, the insurer will measure the pilot's effectiveness engaging Medicare Advantage patients, helping them navigate the healthcare system and working with the insurer's clinical case managers.
"Our members are still suffering from symptoms of COVID—sometimes months after their active infection clears," Hsu said. "They're worried, they're confused, they're overwhelmed. They have trouble navigating the healthcare system. So we really wanted this digital-first, single place for them to have tools that guide them with actual human beings on the backend, helping them."
After members download the app, they are asked to input their symptoms and severity. The app then personalizes a treatment plan based on their condition, and uses Sidekick's gamification and artificial intelligence systems to help patients adhere to the program. Along with the digital tools, Anthem members can message nurses through the app at any time to help them navigate the healthcare system—helping to, hopefully, avoid costly urgent care visits, Hsu said.
"Our members that are suffering from long COVID are most likely to, for example, use more urgent care (and) get bounced around the system, leading to a really poor experience," Hsu said. "Long term, our primary focus is on that most vulnerable group."
An estimated 22.6 million Americans are currently struggling with long COVID, according to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, which uses a model that assumes 30% of coronavirus survivors have persistent symptoms. Conditions linked to long COVID will cost insurers $22 billion this year, representing 4% of all medical expenditures, according to Moody's Investors Service.
Anthem hopes the care management skills its Medicare Advantage members learn from the app will help them deal with chronic COVID conditions.
Over the last year, the insurer has worked with Sidekick Health to create similar digital programs for members with cancer and Crohn's disease.