July 09, 2014

A text-messaging trial targeting high-cost Medicaid patients in New York has found that the interactive mHealth tool significantly improved patient adherence to medications, doctor appointments and care plans.

The project proves the value of patient engagement programs for high-cost, underserved populations. One of its organizers said it will next be introduced to larger Medicaid populations.

The trial, conducted by Montefiore Medical Center’s Universal Behavioral Associates and supported by a $100,000 Pilot Health Tech NYC grant, targeted 67 patients and 15 care managers involved in MMC’s Medicaid Health Home. Using a mobile care management program developed by New York-based Sense Health, the two-month project reportedly resulted in a 40 percent increase in self-reported adherence to appointments, a 12 percent increase in medication adherence and a 7 percent increase in reaching care plan goals.

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“Our goal was to understand whether mobile technology would help our care managers provide more consistent and efficient support and quality care for our Medicaid patients,” said Donald A. Bux, PhD, director of behavioral healthcare management at University Behavioral Associates, in a press release. “At first we were concerned that mobile technology might feel impersonal and lead to a disconnect, but we were pleasantly surprised by how well received the program was by our patients and care managers. Not only did clients using Sense Health report more engagement in their care plans, but patients and their care managers also reported greater ease in connecting with each other.”

The Sense Health platform develops interactive, text-message-based support plans that are shared between patients and their caregivers. They’re designed to help patients take control of their own health management by providing information, advice and encouragement – all key components of a successful patient engagement strategy. That strategy will now be developed by Sense Health in partnerships with Medicaid Managed Care Organizations.

“In the patient engagement arena, quantifying engagement in a meaningful way is a challenge in and of itself,” said Stan Berkow, co-founder and CEO of Sense Health, in the release. “We’re thrilled not only to have quantified key patient engagement outcomes, but to have demonstrated significant improvements in those critical areas.”

A survey of the project’s participants found that they were 21 percent more motivated, 26 percent more confident and 22 percent more knowledgeable about lifestyle changes recommended for their health when using the Sense Health platform, according to officials.

What’s more, tailoring health interventions and the support of care managers can help providers encourage people to take more accountability for their own health, added added Fred Muench, MD, a Sense Health advisor and member of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in the press release.

“Prior to helping people take their medications more consistently or attend their appointments more frequently,” Muench said, “it’s critical to ensure they feel sufficiently motivated, knowledgeable and confident to actually take all of the necessary actions to improve their health.”

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