Positive outcomes from WellDoc's BlueStar translate to cost savings, analysis finds

By Dave Muoio
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An analysis contracted by WellDoc found that the company’s digital therapeutic for Type 2 diabetes management could lead to an average savings of more than $250 per patient per month.

“The cost of a well-controlled diabetes patient will typically range in the $13,000 range [to] $20,000 annually. When you contrast that with the cost of a patient that doesn’t have diabetes, that number is typically around $4,500 and $5,000 dollars,” Dr. Anand Iyer, chief strategy officer at WellDoc, told Babyforyou.net.ua. “A lot of these costs are avoidable if patients do the things that their providers tell them to. … What we’ve seen in this analysis for the first time is that when people actually do that, you do create these cost savings to the tune of [roughly] $250 to $270 per patient per month, which is quite substantial in the grand scheme of things.”

WellDoc’s FDA-cleared, reimburseable BlueStar system for diabetes management analyzes patient data, compares the data to past trends, and sends analytics to the patient’s healthcare team. The app-driven program also features behavioral coaching, motivational messages, educational content, and other tools for population health analysis. 

“[BlueStar] has created on average a two-point drop in hemoglobin 1C,” BlueStar President and CEO Kevin McRaith told Babyforyou.net.ua. “The FDA regards a half a point drop the bar to achieve for any new drug. A two-point drop on average, four [times] what they require, is quite significant. And physicians who receive that progress report are two to five times more likely to actually make a medication change or a diet recommendation change or an activity recommendation change. So we see not only a movement in patient behavior and health outcomes, but also a movement in how physicians prescribe.”

To investigate how well these clinical outcomes translate into cost savings, WellDoc contracted Truven Health Analytics (a 2016 acquisition of IBM Watson Health) to conduct an analysis of potential cost savings. Truven’s researchers examined data collected from more than 3,000 patients during clinical trials and real-world use against insurance claims, EHRs, health risk assessments, and other resources comprising the MarketScan Research Database. With these, they devised an algorithm capable of breaking down care costs by A1C levels across patient age, stability, and degree of glycemic control.

From this analysis, Truven’s researchers concluded that WellDoc’s digital therapeutic offers payers an average per patient per month savings of $254 to $271.

“That would be defined as substantial when you look at the prevalence of diabetes in individual health plans, health systems, you’re looking at a prevalence of nine to 10 percent with Type 2 diabetes,” McRaith explained. “To be able to directly correlate the outcomes with cost savings, … it’s really what everyone is looking for.”

WellDoc and IBM Watson Health will be working on additional analysis, and McRaith said that the companies are planning to release a more in-depth white paper for the present investigation within this quarter. In the past WellDoc has entered partnerships with Samsung, Max Healthcare, and others to roll out BlueStar to patients, and last year teamed up with the American Association of Diabetes Educators to better incorporate educational content within the digital therapeutic.

“We’ve heard these aspirational statements for decades and now we’re finally seeing that there is a way,” Iyer said. “Everybody says we ought to be able to reduce these costs — now we are showing how we can actually reduce these costs.”