For the first time in Idaho, Healthy.io is partnering with Blue Cross of Idaho to bring a kidney health testing kit into the state’s health care market.
Blue Cross of Idaho started offering that kit to its roughly 200 employees this month, with the intent of expanding that reach; following the rollout for employees, the plan is to make the kits available to the health insurance company’s Medicare Advantage members in 2023.
Developing the technology and partnership
Healthy.io — in a nutshell — develops ways for people to use their smartphone camera as a medical device, with the intent of making health care more accessible.
Through this multi-year partnership, Blue Cross of Idaho will offer Healthy.io’s Minuteful Kidney test, which is currently lauded as the only FDA-cleared at-home kidney test. The test scans for chronic kidney disease and kidney damage by having the user go through kit instructions at home. The kit provides a sample collector and a dipstick and color board; the results are then shared directly with the user’s primary care physician.
“Through colorimetric analysis, computer vision and AI, we use the smartphone camera to deliver an FDA cleared clinical-grade medical test,” Healthy.io states on its website. “The app walks the user through a simple test, making it as easy as snapping a photo.”
The product was launched in the United Kingdom several years ago, and now that it has FDA approval as of July, it can be offered in the United States. This is the first Healthy.io product to be offered in the U.S.
“(Healty.io) had some successful outcomes from identification as well as helping (users) not progress in their kidney disease,” said Jill Alessi, vice president of health care operations with Blue Cross of Idaho. “Idaho has some significant rural areas and we do have some challenges with individuals getting access to primary care providers. I think we’ve seen it demonstrated by the increase of our telehealth use.”
Paula LeClair, U.S. general manager with Healthy.io, said one of the most important pieces of the product is its persuasion element regarding getting testing and approaches to collecting user data relevant to their health care.
She explained that the initial thought was if a kit was sent, people would use it, but Healthy.io found that other factors were involved in an individual’s ultimate use of the test, such as gender and other demographics, time of day for convenient use and preferred communication methods. Some of this was learned during the U.K. rollout.
LeClair highlighted that current data shows 75 million Americans are at risk for kidney disease, and one in seven are likely unknowingly living with it.
Blue Cross of Idaho and Healthy.io’s partnership came about over a year ago through a realization of shared mutual interests, such as a desire to reach underserved populations in locations and through ways that are convenient for them.
“We felt that they were a good partner for us for not only their engagement with members but how they coordinate with providers to really do a holistic (approach to) identifying kidney disease,” Alessi said of the partnership with Healthy.io. “There are many individuals across the nation, across the state of Idaho, that might have early stages of kidney disease that they just don’t know about…(not having) significant symptoms. So, utilizing this test really is an easy way for them to know if they are at risk or have early diagnosis or potential so that we can coordinate services or treatment better.”
“We are aligned,” said LeClair. In particular, she praised Blue Cross of Idaho’s approach to telehealth, respect for providers and approaches to partnerships to help health care stakeholders.
“We believe we need to work alongside (collaborators) to improve health care, to provide better care,” LeClair added.
“As we get some feedback on (the) initial launch and additional data with it, it’ll help us make sure the program is at 100% or (tell us) if we need to do simple tweaks to it to make it better and then be able to roll it out for our larger memberships,” Alessi said regarding next steps for the partnership with Healthy.io, adding anyone who has Blue Cross of Idaho insurance might eventually have an opportunity to utilize this device.
“We will be partnering to see how many members we get identified with early kidney disease that we can watch over time to see if with early intervention (and) early treatment they don’t progress to further stages of kidney disease,” Alessi continued. “We know that for people with End-Stage Renal Disease, that is a diagnosis that is hard for a lot of people…So, any way that we can possibly prevent that or slow that progression would be a benefit for Idahoans across the board.”
Alessi also confirmed there are opportunities to potentially make other Healthy.io products available to the member network. That is contingent on product approval by the FDA.
LeClair said she is optimistic about that in the future, now that the FDA is aware of Healthy.io and its similar approach to other products.
She added that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently changed its guidelines around checking for kidney disease, and she feels Idaho is well-positioned to meet those guidelines. Areas that will likely require further planning, according to LeClair, are around telehealth and medical supply shipping regulations.m