This week, Dreamit HealthTech startup emocha Mobile Health received a $1M Small Business Innovation Research award from the National Institute On Minority Health And Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University will use the funding to test the effectiveness of emocha’s medication adherence technology on patients with tuberculosis.
Medication nonadherence is a problem with significant implications for population health outcomes and healthcare costs. To illustrate this point, a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggested that medication nonadherence causes 125,000 deaths each year and creates between $100B and $289B in additional costs.
Emocha’s technology makes it easy for providers to perform Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) via video. With DOT, a provider watches patients as they take each dose of prescribed medicine to improve adherence. Research has demonstrated that DOT can improve treatment outcomes in a variety of conditions. For example, one meta-analysis of 34 studies determined that patients with tuberculosis who received DOT had improved outcomes over patients who received other interventions.
By digitizing the DOT process so providers can review a video of patients taking their medications instead of watching them in-person, emocha enables a more scalable and efficient way of performing DOT. While emocha plans to continue proving the efficacy of the product with additional research, early results are promising.
In one study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that tuberculosis patients who used emocha’s product had a 94% medication adherence rate. This same report determined that emocha could provide public health programs with potential average savings of $1,391 per patient.
Emocha is not the only Dreamit startup trying to solve the problem of medication adherence. New York-based Wellth is working with Mount Sinai Health System to use behavioral economics and financial incentives to get high-risk patients to take their medications. Patients earn a few dollars each day when they take their pills on time; insurers and risk-bearing providers save money by decreasing readmissions.
Soon, emocha also plans to begin a study with University of Washington School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center that will evaluate how its product affects treatment adherence in patients who have opioid use disorder.
With the new grant, emocha has now received a total of $3M in non-dilutive funding from the National Institutes of Health since 2015.