Healthy at Home Program Will Test COPD Preventive Care, Health Costs

The effort will test virtual care's ability to complement disease treatment

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by Somi Igbene, PhD |

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The University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School and Wellinks have launched “Healthy at Home,” a program to investigate whether virtual care can prevent recurrent illness and reduce health-related costs for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The six-month program will test the feasibility of virtual preventive care and if it complements current treatment and management plans to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.

“We are proud to be collaborating with Wellinks on the Healthy at Home program to assess the true impact of integrating virtual management into the care journey of people living with COPD, and to continue finding ways to improve care quality while reducing unnecessary costs,” Apurv Soni, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and co-director of the program in digital medicine at UMass Chan, said in a press release.

“Through our Healthy at Home collaboration with UMass Chan Medical School, we’re helping more people living with COPD get the care they need to stay healthy and in control of their condition,” Abi Sundaramooorthy, MD, chief medical officer at Wellinks, said.

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COPD affects an estimated 16 million people in the U.S. and is the third leading cause of death by chronic illness in the country. It costs an estimated $49.9 billion annually, mainly from recurrent illness or sudden symptom worsening that lead to emergency department visits and hospitalizations. Evidence suggests preventive care, including regular assessments, lung rehabilitation, and care management, can reduce recurrent illness and healthcare costs.

Wellinks is a digital platform that combines virtual lung rehabilitation with personalized health coaching and monitoring through connected devices and a patient-friendly app to manage COPD. The Healthy at Home program seeks to show that combining Wellinks with current COPD management strategies can improve quality of life and reduce healthcare costs.

“The core mission of the Program in Digital Medicine is to empower patients with health technology tools to help remove barriers to care, emphasize preventive care, and improve self-management, which are critical to improving clinical outcomes and patient quality of life,” Soni said.

The program will enroll 100 adults with COPD from the UMass Accountable Care Organization (UMMACO) who are at risk of requiring acute care within six months. Participants will have 24/7 access to paramedics who can perform on-demand, in-home medical assessments and provide treatments in consultation with a supervising physician.

Through Wellinks, they’ll receive at-home lung rehabilitation and personalized health coaching, as well as access to specialized devices to measure lung function parameters and blood oxygen levels and a mobile app. Healthcare professionals will have access to a mobile integrated health dashboard that displays participants’ biometric data from wearable sensors, patient-reported outcomes, and other relevant clinical data to monitor them.

“As we build the clinical evidence base for virtual-first COPD care together, we look forward to sharing the results from this program to inform future innovation in COPD care,” Sundaramoorthy said.

Wellinks is also collaborating with Hartford Healthcare to see if its digital platform can reduce hospital readmissions in people with COPD. The company hopes to publish results from a 24-week study conducted in partnership with the COPD Foundation that evaluated the impact of its platform on quality of life, use of healthcare resources, and user satisfaction.