This post focuses on SonarMD, another innovative company working with IBD patients. Daniel Weintraub, Account Executive at SonarMD, spoke with me at the 4th annual HLTH Conference. Even more interesting, he talked about how SonarMD is working to use patient-reported data to reduce IBD complications. He explained how their approach can improve outcomes for patients and support practitioners while reducing payer costs.
As mentioned in my last post, I am blogging to share my talks with innovative companies that attended the HLTH conference in October 2019, including SonarMD. This conference attracts more than 6000 attendees working to improve healthcare quality while reducing costs. Most of all, the HLTH conference gave me the opportunity to speak with others who share my mission of advancing digital health to improve chronic care management.
Previously, I featured Vivante Health, the company that created GIThrive, a multidisciplinary program that offers support and tools to improve gut health.
HLTH – Diverse players use technology to re-imagine chronic disease management
At the HLTH conference representing the SonarMD team was Daniel Weintraub. He, too, appreciated 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
The HLTH conference brings together thousands of individuals from the healthcare industry with diverse perspectives. One of these is SonarMD, working hard to be a leader in driving change. Nevertheless, I found that all of the attendees were receptive to each others’ views and goals. As Daniel mentioned, it was wonderful to be surrounded by others who want to change healthcare for the better.
SonarMD – Helping patients ride the waves to better health
Many have heard of the navigation technique SONAR (“sound navigation and ranging”). Sonar uses sound waves to detect, identify, map and communicate with objects in the water. SonarMD does not support maritime travel. Instead, it offers a digital health tool that, like sonar, 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. The company is starting with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. In IBD they are already seeing reductions in hospitalizations. Moreover, payers using the software have saved more than 15% per member per year.
SonarMD contracts with payers. Then they work directly with sub-specialists in their networks to provide value-based care enabled by SonarMD’s digital platform.
A proprietary scoring algorithm analyzes monthly patient survey data. The algorithm detects patients’ worsening symptoms earlier. Then, it communicates these issues to specialists. These specialists intervene to help patients map out treatment plans to reduce IBD complications. In this way, 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 volatility risk. Per SonarMD, high-beta describes chronic conditions that can rapidly deteriorate without patients realizing it. This can lead to serious complications that require ER visits, hospitalizations, even surgery. High-beta conditions have highly variable per capita costs, a big part of which is treatment with expensive specialty medications. Such drugs can help prevent expensive flares and emergency care, but the trade-offs make managing high-beta conditions challenging.
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. Each monthly survey is based on validated measurement protocols. Such protocols include 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 the survey. Then, SonarMD mines that survey data to track useful 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) is tracked over time to reveal trends. Then, the score is compared to benchmarks calculated from SonarMD’s five-year database of monthly scores from patients across the country. Moreover, patients can review their past scores. Most importantly, 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. Patients are alerted only if the score changes against benchmarks show that they are at risk for a sudden decline in condition. This way, SonarMD can help coordinate care between patients and their specialists when needed. By ensuring that there are timely interventions, they can avoid costly emergency care and optimize 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. This does not need to be paid back even if savings do not exceed the prepayment.
SonarMD helps payers reduce costs in high cost variability (“high-beta”) patient populations. One factor is that people with chronic conditions like IBD are subject to flares, where their conditions unpredictably worsen. Another is that providers often prescribe expensive specialty medications to treat IBD patients. However, such meds may produce side effects, or need dosage adjustment. While these drugs are costly, emergency visits, hospitalizations and surgery are even more expensive. To illustrate, in a recent study, SonarMD shows that there were 77% fewer Crohn’s-related ER visits and 58% fewer Crohn’s-related hospitalizations. This helped enrolled health plans save more than 15% per member per year.
From ripples to waves?
Although more studies are in progress, SonarMD has already shown promising early results. In a study presented at Digestive Disease Week 2019, 176 Crohn’s patients using the SonarMD platform saved payers an average of $6500.
Here at Your Autoimmunity Connection, we see how SonarMD’s approach could impact healthcare for the better with lower costs. Therefore, we would like to see SonarMD target other immune-mediated diseases. We believe similar opportunities for better care and lower costs may apply to lupus, RA and MS. We look forward to SonarMD creating big waves in healthcare, by helping more patients with many different conditions.
Written By: Dr. Bonnie Feldman, Kelsey Ouyang, Ellen M. Martin
- 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.