New Harvard mHealth Partnership Targets Medicaid Patients

In today’s smartphone-obsessed world, could mobile technologies be the key to unlocking better health outcomes for Medicaid patients—including those with costly chronic health conditions? Recent studies have shown the positive impact that mHealth utilization can have on certain patients with or at risk of developing chronic diseases, and now, researchers at Harvard University are partnering with experts in the industry with the goal of empowering California Medicaid enrollees to take control of their own health. As mHealth Intelligence first reported, Harvard Medical School and mobile health care company mPulse are joining forces on two new programs that would use two-way, interactive text messages to connect patients and providers. Said Harvard’s Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, who is helping to spearhead the program, “There is a major need for innovation in care delivery and how we can engage patients outside of just the office visit.”

One of the two programs would target a wider group of new Medicaid enrollees, with the goal of connecting them with primary care providers—often a complicated process, but a vitally important one. Many of those first entering Medicaid face language barriers and other challenges, making the process even more daunting; to that end, with the new Harvard/mPulse program, “tailored text messaging aims to determine how language barriers affect a member’s ability to actively seek out chronic care.” The second program is aimed at Medicaid patients with chronic conditions; through interactive text messages, program staff will take steps to encourage patients to participate in disease management initiatives, which can lead to better adherence to treatment and, in turn, better health outcomes.

As we’ve noted before, chronic conditions cost Americans dearly every year, making prevention and proper management critical. The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, for example, estimates that care for patients with chronic diseases like heart disease, COPD, and diabetes “accounts for approximately 75 percent of the nation’s aggregate health care spending,” with 45 percent of Americans having one or more chronic condition. Among Medicaid patients, some studies have shown higher occurrences of chronic diseases than in the rest of the population. A 2013 Gallup survey, for example, found that, along with comparatively higher rates of asthma and diabetes, “More than three in 10 adults on Medicaid are obese, and more than two in 10 say they are being treated for depression (22 percent) and high blood pressure (24 percent).” The Harvard and mPulse team, for its part, hopes to pilot new strategies for individual disease management among Medicaid beneficiaries. Said Mehrotra, “I’m excited about the possibility for mPulse Mobile to engage individuals in their health using tailored and interactive text messaging to improve outcomes and lower costs.”

Click here for the article from mHealth Intelligence on the new Harvard-mPulse program.

Click here for a press release from mPulse and Harvard on the new partnership.


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