Melanie Igwe is the co-founder and COO of ViuHealth, a digital health platform reimagining the way autoimmune care delivery is provided. She’s leveraging her passion for healthcare, equity, and technology to connect patients with the comprehensive care teams they need to navigate their autoimmune journey. This summer, Melanie will join nearly 100 fellows at Aspen Ideas: Health to engage in conversations on health's biggest topics. We caught up with her ahead of the event to learn about the big idea she’s putting into action.
Tell us about your big idea!
The big idea my incredible ViuHealth team and I are tackling is reimagining the way autoimmune care delivery is provided. By understanding this patient population clinically, culturally, and on an individual level, we are creating a personalized approach that uses our members’ unique dataset to provide the right interventions at the right time to garner the best patient outcomes.
How can a patient use the app to manage their care?
When our members join the app they are given access to a comprehensive care team. This Care Team is comprised of nurse practitioners, RN’s, nutritionists, and autoimmune health coaches that are board certified. Our members initially meet with their nurse, and they discuss their top four goals. These goals serve as the foundation for the monthly tasks incorporated into each member’s personalized care plan, which is prepared diligently by the Care Team.
ViuHealth members monitor their daily tasks to achieve the broader goals they set with their Care Team. The combination of human support from our health coaches coupled with encouraging our members to track their symptoms, nutrition, medication compliance, and engage with our suite of stress management solutions, provides an invaluable way to reflect on their autoimmune journey and the progress they have made. Our aim is that our members have enhanced health literacy through a better understanding of their condition with their data and deploying incremental behavioral changes that aid in our members reaching their short-term and long-term goals.
Why do autoimmune conditions take a significant time to diagnose, particularly for women?
Autoimmune conditions can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be present in a very similar way to other conditions. When looking at remission phases and flare-ups, it is also a challenge to identify consistent patterns of these symptoms. Women are already more likely to develop autoimmune diseases than men, and their symptoms can often be dismissed or attributed to other conditions that lead to delays in diagnosis. Furthermore, many autoimmune diseases and other chronic conditions have symptoms that mirror those of reproductive health, like menstrual irregularities, which can even further complicate the diagnostic process.
How did you solicit and utilize community feedback?
Viuhealth was truly developed with intentionality from the autoimmune community. We have partnerships with over 18 autoimmune patient advocacy groups whose leaders and members gave amazing feedback about the app and our Care Team program. Additionally, we actively encourage members participating in the program to share their experiences and provide feedback directly through the platform.
Did you utilize your background in data science when creating the app?
Yes, particularly in my background with EHRs, there is so much impactful data in the medical records. Having both the medical records and capturing near daily patient-reported outcomes and the summation of this data with the Care Team interactions creates a unique patient dataset that enhances the data of the physician managing their care.
What has been the effect of ViuHealth’s platform on patient outcomes?
The impact on patient outcomes has been incredible. I have survey results from patients that have finished our Care Team 16-week program. Eighty-three percent stated that their top health concerns improved and one-hundred precent Achieved at least 1 health goal. On a scale of zero to ten, with zero meaning “no improvement” and ten meaning “significant improvement, we have seen an average daily symptom improvement of six for our patients. One hundred percent agree that ViuHealth has provided them with the tools to help them better manage their autoimmune care.
ViuHealth’s next objective is to continuously identify opportunities to better serve our members. By placing patients at the core of our actions and crafting solutions that offer them value, we have demonstrated our worth as an indispensable resource for the autoimmune ecosystem. We are hoping to grow and support strategic commercial partnerships that enable ViuHealth to increase support of autoimmune patients on their journey. Our ultimate goal is to facilitate the best health outcomes possible and enable our members to enjoy the quality of life they deserve.
The views and opinions of the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Aspen Institute.