Written By: Dr. Bonnie Feldman, Kelsey Ouyang, Ellen M. Martin
As mentioned in my last post, I am creating a series of blog posts to share my observations about innovative companies that attended the HLTH conference in October 2019. This conference brings together more than 6000 attendees, who are working to improve healthcare quality while reducing costs. Personally, I greatly enjoyed the conference, as I had the opportunity to speak with many others who share my mission of advancing digital health to improve chronic care management.
Previously, I featured Vivante Health, a company that has created GIThrive, a multidisciplinary program that offers support and tools to improve gut health.
This time, I want to focus on SonarMD, another innovative company working with IBD patients, about its experience at HLTH and how it is working to improve outcomes for patients, and support practitioners, while reducing payer costs.
HLTH – Diverse healthcare players using technology to reimagine chronic disease management
To speak about the HLTH conference from the SonarMD team is Daniel Weintraub, who expressed his appreciation of the supportive environment that allowed him to converse with other conference attendees about SonarMD’s mission.
“We were grateful to have the opportunity to bring IBD into the conversation at HLTH. Those we talked to really grasped the need to bring innovation and better care coordination to the patients who live with and normalize this disease – to both improve outcomes and lower costs for everyone. Overall, it was great to be surrounded by people and organizations working to effect real change in healthcare.”
– Daniel Weintraub
Though HLTH brings together thousands of individuals from the healthcare industry who are approaching the industry from different angles, I found that all of the attendees were receptive of each others’ perspectives and goals. As Daniel mentioned, it was wonderful to be surrounded by others who want to change healthcare for the better. And SonarMD is working hard to be a leader in driving change.
SonarMD- Helping patients ride the waves to better health
Many have heard of the navigation technique sonar (“sound navigation and ranging”), which uses sound waves to detect, identify, map and communicate with objects in the water. While SonarMD has no place in maritime travel, it is a digital health tool that also helps detect, communicate, and map out a good path for its users.
SonarMD is a care coordination and therapeutic optimization platform for high-beta conditions1, starting with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, where they are already seeing reductions in hospitalizations and savings of more than 15% per member per year to payers using the software.
SonarMD contracts with payers and then works directly with sub-specialists in their networks to provide value-based care, enabled by SonarMD’s digital platform.
Using monthly patient survey data, a proprietary scoring algorithm helps detect patients’ worsening symptoms earlier, and communicate these issues to specialists, who can then intervene to help patients map out treatment plans to reduce IBD complications. SonarMD assists physicians to better help patients ride the waves of health by reducing costly hospitalizations.
1What are High Beta Conditions? In finance, high beta means high risk. SonarMD defines high-beta conditions as those that are symptomatic chronic conditions that can rapidly deteriorate without patients realizing it. This can lead to serious complications that can drive ER visits and hospitalizations. As a result, high-beta conditions have highly variable per capita costs and are often treated with high-cost therapeutics, such as specialty drugs.
Let’s C how it Works
To understand how SonarMD improves patient care, remember the 3C’s: Connect, Calculate, and Coordinate.
Every month, SonarMD sends surveys to IBD patients as HIPAA-compliant secure texts or emails. The survey is based on well-established and validated measurement protocols, such as the Crohn’s Disease Activity Index, and the Mayo Score for Ulcerative Colitis Disease Activity. It only takes a few minutes for patients to complete, but the survey allows SonarMD to gather valuable information about symptoms and trends.
Using the survey results, SonarMD’s algorithm generates a personalized Sonar Score —a numerical representation of each patient’s responses. This score (shown below) can be tracked over time to reveal trends and is compared to benchmarks calculated from SonarMD’s database of monthly scores from patients across the country over the past five years. Patients can review their past scores, and specialists can use scores and trends to identify worsening symptoms and identify next appropriate steps of treatment.
The program alerts the care coordination team to contact the patient if the patient’s score, or changes in the score as measured by the benchmarks, indicate that the patient is at risk for a sudden decline in condition. This way, SonarMD can help coordinate care between patients and their specialists to ensure that there are timely interventions, avoiding costly emergency care and optimizing quality of care.
So who benefits?
SonarMD can help patients by giving them rapid access to their specialists between regularly scheduled appointments. By identifying flares earlier, even before patients may be aware that their conditions are worsening, the SonarMD team helps them proactively manage flares and decrease the number of emergency room visits and/or costly hospital stays.
SonarMD provides tools and resources that enable specialists to provide better care for their patients under a value-based care model. By identifying at-risk patients, specialists can intervene between regularly scheduled visits to prevent flares from worsening and triggering emergency care.
In this value-based care model, providers are financially rewarded for providing early quality care by receiving a portion of the shared savings. In addition, to help medical practices with their cash flow, practices receive prepayments on their portion of shared savings per member per quarter, which does not need to be paid back even if savings do not exceed the prepayment.
SonarMD helps payers save money by reducing costs in high variability (“high-beta”) patient populations. Patients with chronic conditions like IBD are subject to flares, where their conditions suddenly worsen. Such patients may also be prescribed expensive specialty medications, which may present unexpected side effects, or which need dosage adjustment to prevent flares or side-effects From a recent study on its current target patient population, SonarMD shows that there were 77% fewer Crohn’s-related ER visits and 58% fewer Crohn’s-related hospitalizations, helping enrolled health plans save more than 15% per member per year.
Ripples to Waves?
Though more studies are in progress, SonarMD has already shown promising early results. In a study that was presented at the 2019 Digestive Disease Week, 176 Crohn’s patients saved payers an average of $6500 when using the SonarMD platform.
Here at Your Autoimmunity Connection, we see how SonarMD’s approach offers great potential to impact healthcare for the better with lower costs. Therefore, we would like to see SonarMD target other immune-mediated diseases, where similar opportunities for better care and lower costs apply. We look forward to SonarMD creating large waves in healthcare, by helping more patients with many different conditions.
- Care Coordination and Therapeutic Optimization, Starting in IBD. Care Coordination and Therapeutic Optimization, Starting in IBD, SonarMD, 2019.
- Singh, Siddharth, et al. “Su1786–Reduction in Costs of Care in Patients with Crohn’s Disease in a Community Practice-Based Medical Home Over Two Years: A Propensity Score Matched Cohort Analysis.” Gastroenterology 156.6 (2019): S-611.