Ohio Insurer Turns to Propeller Health for Digital Approach to COPD

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Propeller Health said this week that it has partnered with an Ohio-based health insurer to help a group of its Medicare patients who have respiratory disease better manage their symptoms.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio has begun recruiting patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to participate in a new program that will turn their existing inhalers into new digital medicine tools. Participants in the program will receive Internet-connected sensors developed by Madison, WI-based Propeller. Affixed to their inhalers, the sensors collect data on inhaler usage, environmental conditions, and other factors, and allow patients and their healthcare providers to review the information using computers and mobile devices.

To be eligible for the program, a patient must be enrolled in one of Anthem’s Medicare Advantage health plans in Ohio, and have been hospitalized or gone to the emergency room at least once after experiencing COPD symptoms.

Nearly 16 million people in the U.S. have COPD, a disease for which there is currently no cure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Propeller’s platform combines sensors, mobile apps, and software analytics.

The company’s sensors and complementary software help patients manage their conditions by providing caregivers data. After a patient takes a dose of medication with a sensor-equipped inhaler, information on where and when he or she used the device is automatically routed to the Propeller mobile app via a Bluetooth connection. The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.

The Ohio insurer said its care management team will use a clinician-facing version of Propeller’s software to monitor patients’ progress in managing their symptoms. Propeller’s digital tools might help people on the team glean insights and make changes to a patient’s treatment regimen, Anthem BCBS Ohio said.

Propeller’s products lie at the intersection of current trends in healthcare, like efforts to reduce costs by avoiding hospitalizations and using technology to improve patient adherence to treatment programs.

Launched in 2010, Propeller has primarily focused on developing sensors and software for patients with asthma and COPD.

However, the company said in May that it plans to work with Aptar Pharma to develop digital health products for treating conditions outside of respiratory disease. Propeller said at the time that it had raised $20 million in new funding, with Aptar Pharma providing half of the total.

Propeller’s core business model involves partnering with networks of hospitals and clinics, insurers, municipal governments, and other groups, who pay for the use of the devices and related services by their patients, members, and citizens. Propeller’s products have been used by patients through more than 60 commercial programs across the U.S., the startup says. Its past collaborators have included Dignity Health in California and the city of Louisville.