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IBC and Penn Medicine team to study medication adherence, genomic cancer, and more

One study includes pill bottles that beep when it’s time to take drugs

Philadelphia, PA – Independence Blue Cross (IBC) announces a new collaboration with Penn Medicine today on research initiatives into some of today’s most pressing health issues. Current research studies are underway to:

  • test new approaches to improve medication adherence for heart attack survivors; and
  • understand how genomic testing can be used to improve clinical outcomes and lower cancer care costs.

Future research studies are in the planning stage to:

  • evaluate the impact of establishing stroke centers in Philadelphia hospitals on stroke outcomes;
  • study the economic impact of using peer mentors to help manage diabetes;
  • examine how periodontal care affects health outcomes for people with diabetes and pregnant women; and
  • assess knee arthroscopy surgery and complications as part of a national benchmarking project.

“Philadelphia should be the Silicon Valley of health care innovation given its active investment community and pool of talent with experience in the health care field,” said IBC president and CEO Daniel J. Hilferty. “Penn is one of the nation’s premier research universities and our two organizations have enjoyed a long relationship of working together to improve the health of people in our community. We are excited about this new research initiative, which, among many things, will help us learn more about ways to change behaviors to improve health outcomes and lower health care costs.”

“We saw IBC as a natural partner for Penn because of its high quality informatics capabilities,” said University of Pennsylvania Health System CEO Ralph Muller. “We’ve enjoyed collaborating with IBC on a number of initiatives, as we believe that combining resources and perspectives across the leading payer and provider in the region creates opportunities for meaningful innovation.”

In one study, researchers will look at whether pill bottles equipped with beeping devices that alert patients to take their medications — in addition to a series of behavioral economic motivational tools — will improve medication adherence. This study also examines how a social support system can improve drug adherence in patients discharged from a hospital after a heart attack.

“One of the greatest challenges to improving health care today centers on changing the behaviors that lead to poor health, whether that is eating right and exercising, getting appropriate tests and screenings, or taking the medications doctors prescribe,” said Kevin Volpp, M.D., Director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, who is overseeing several of the research projects. “Evidence shows that patients who take medications such as cholesterol lowering drugs as prescribed have a much lower likelihood of being readmitted to the hospital or having another heart attack. We know that there are tremendous health benefits to increasing medication adherence and improving health behaviors to reduce patients’ risk of disease. It’s just a matter of figuring out the best ways to achieve the desired behaviors,” added Volpp.

“We’re excited about leveraging our powerful technology and informatics capabilities with Penn to find new ways to address serious health issues,” said Somesh Nigam, senior vice president and chief informatics officer of IBC. “The long-term potential for this work to improve our members’ health, as well as the health of others throughout our community, is significant.” Somesh added that all patient data IBC provides for the research will comply with HIPAA regulations and will be securely maintained at all times.

While these are primarily multi-year studies, Nigam expects that there could be some preliminary results for the genomic testing project in early 2014.

Ruth Stoolman
PR Manager
Independence Blue Cross