Digital Health Program Drives 15 Percent Reduction in Digestive-Related Costs

Aug 31, 2022 at 04:48 pm by pj

By Bill Snyder, CEO of Vivante Health


Digestive disorders typically rank among an organization’s top five healthcare expenses. That’s a major direct cost for businesses, and it doesn’t even count indirect costs involving productivity losses and absenteeism caused by digestive ailments. Yet until recently few digital health solutions were available to help people manage these conditions, in part because there has been no one-size-fits-all solution for a category spanning dozens of diseases and symptoms.


New corporate-focused digital health programs that address digestive disease management are helping reduce both the human and the financial toll.


One large nonprofit employer that implemented Vivante Health’s GIThrive, for example, realized a 15% reduction in digestive-related healthcare spend, a 70% self-reported positive impact on participants’ health, and an 89% improvement in participants’ overall well-being after a year, benefiting employees as well as the employer’s bottom line.


Analyzing the Savings


The study documenting these results compared claims data for 470 employees participating in the GIThrive program against 1,880 non-participants for the year before and the year after program adoption. Users were matched with non-users based on gender, age category, presence of any GI disease, and healthcare cost.

After removing outliers with a total medical spend above $50,000 from both groups, the analysis revealed that the employer had reduced average per-person digestive-related healthcare costs from $5,556 to $4,715 - an average savings of more than $840 annually per member.

Pharmacy spend had actually increased because of medication adherence encouraged by the program’s health coaches and dietitians, but that was more than offset by a substantial drop in emergency room visits and inpatient admissions stemming from participants’ better management of their digestive symptoms.

In addition, participants reported a 39% increase in their ability to make healthy digestive choices after three months on the program and 92% said they felt more empowered and in control of their digestive gut health after using GIThrive.

 As one participant said, “My gut is healing, and the support from my dietitian makes all the difference.”


Individualizing Action Plans


Like other digital health applications, digital digestive disease programs benefit from the ability to tailor nutrition and behavior modification recommendations to each user’s symptoms, health profile and even their food likes and dislikes. These advantages are a direct result of automated analysis of user questionnaires and symptom tracking as well as users’ ability to remotely access registered dietitians and health coaches for live chats or phone meetings for one-on-one support.

Some platforms offer additional personalization capabilities such as at-home microbiome analysis of each user’s gut chemistry and hydrogen breath testing that helps identify food triggers based on intestinal absorption.

These features help generate individualized action plans that combine with other app-based tools such as symptom tracking, food diaries, recipe libraries and educational materials to help users monitor and manage their conditions, improve medication compliance, and ultimately reduce digestive-related episodes without lab visits or in-person appointments.


Aiding Undiagnosed Users  

Another benefit of leveraging digital health capabilities to improve digestive health and wellness is the ability to make a difference in the lives of consumers suffering from GI symptoms who have never received a specific diagnosis. Some don’t realize their symptoms may be a sign of a serious condition or are embarrassed to discuss the issue with their doctors. Others have tried but failed to identify the cause of their digestive distress because of the time, expense and challenges involved in evaluating disorders that frequently have non-specific and/or overlapping symptoms, or because of the difficulty of getting an appointment with a gastroenterologist.

In fact, one survey of 2,000+ adults found that more than half of Americans experiencing GI symptoms at least several times a month have never mentioned the problem to their primary care doctor; only 24% of those who have consulted with a healthcare professional have received a diagnosis; and 11% reported visiting their primary care doctor two or more times before receiving a diagnosis or being referred to a specialist.

By requiring users to log food and symptoms daily, monitoring trends over time, and providing access to a care team to provide diet and lifestyle recommendations as well as encouragement, digital health programs can frequently help undiagnosed participants alleviate the frequency and/or severity of their GI troubles and potentially guide them to seek medical help.


The Bottom Line

With more than 70 million Americans suffering from digestive health issues, the annual cost of GI disease reaches $136 billion annually - exceeding heart disease, trauma or mental health. By enabling users to take control of their GI symptoms, digital digestive health solutions promise to deliver significant value by enabling users to take control of their GI symptoms and thereby helping them live better, healthier lives.

Bill Snyder is CEO of Vivante Healtha digital healthcare company that is reinventing the way chronic conditions are managed. Vivante’s all-in-one gut health program, GIThrive, empowers people to improve digestive health through easy-to-use technology, advanced science and on-demand human support while also lowering their cost of care.

Sections: Clinical