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Anthem to Give Propeller Health Digital Tool to Ohio MA Patients With COPD

Allison Inserro
Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with a history of at least 1 emergency department visit or hospitalization are eligible for a new digital health initiative announced by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield for its Ohio Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, where it will cover digital sensors from Propeller Health. 
 
Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with a history of at least 1 emergency department visit or hospitalization are eligible for a new digital health initiative announced by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield for its Ohio Medicare Advantage plans. 

Anthem will cover digital sensors from Propeller Health. The sensors are attached to existing inhalers in an effort to improve health outcomes by automatically tracking medication use. The sensors are paired with a mobile app, and provide personal feedback and insights that help individuals manage and cope with symptoms. 

Anthem’s care management team will also use Propeller’s online provider portal to help understand consumers’ progress in managing their COPD, providing more targeted, personalized care and treatment.  

 
“There’s currently no cure for COPD, but much can be done to help consumers treat the disease,” Linda Hotchkiss, MD, managing medical director, Anthem’s Medicare Advantage Central Region, said in a statement. “This collaboration between Anthem and Propeller gives individuals access to connected care technology that will help them more easily manage their COPD, in order to help them have a better quality of life.” 


It is difficult to predict which patients with COPD will end up in the emergency department (ED), or which ones will have a second exacerbation within days of the first. Propeller is one of many digital therapeutics and digital health companies trying to improve outcomes for patients with COPD and asthma and other chronic diseases. By collecting data on how patients manage their disease day to day or view other factors that may impact health, providers can see how well patients fare with daily adherence to respiratory controller medicines, which can be challenging for patients with COPD or asthma to manage.

In an email exchange with The American Journal of Managed Care®Mike Pilarz, a spokesman for Propeller, said the Anthem agreement expands its work with Medicare Advantage patients, saying it has also worked with UnitedHealthcare and Capital Blue Cross, based in Pennsylvania. Propeller has “partnered with payers, provider groups, health systems and PBMs [pharmacy benefit managers] on more than 65 commercial programs. We are currently partnered with 3 of the largest payers/PBMs in the nation in addition to Anthem.”

For the most part, while there have been beta programs where patients enrolled on their own, Pilarz said the aim is to make Propeller available through agreements with companies, payers, healthcare systems. and PBMs.

The sensors are interchangeable, to a degree. “Our sensors are built to fit a range of respiratory medicines, so they differ depending on the type of medicine and device, not necessarily on the disease. If a patient uses the same device for asthma and COPD, they could use the same sensor to manage both diseases," he said.

Propeller says its system results in fewer respiratory hospitalizations as well as ED visits. For asthma, for example, it says it can improve control by more than 60% and can warn of oncoming exacerbations. 

Decreased hospitalizations and ED visits improves key Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set, or HEDIS, measures, the company said. Patients with respiratory conditions using Propeller are more likely to be prescribed appropriate controller medications and to take controller medications at twice the frequency of the national average, the company says in its marketing materials. 

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