Brain training software company Posit Science is teaming up with Highmark Wholecare to help 7,000 of its members improve their balance and reduce falls, the companies recently announced.
For the one-year demo program, Highmark — which provides Medicaid and Medicare plans to people in Pennsylvania — identified members who have a high fall risk. These members now have access to some of Posit Science’s exercises through its BrainHQ app. The activities target visual processing speed and accuracy, which is expected to help the brain adjust body movement to prevent falls. For example, the game may show something on the screen that then disappears very quickly. Users have to identify what it was that they saw and if they get it right, the game speeds up. If they get it wrong, the game gets slower.
“In doing that, your brain gets faster and more accurate,” said Henry Mahncke, CEO of San Francisco-based Posit Science. “And that sounds like a small thing, but actually just about everything you do with your brain depends on its speed and accuracy.”
In addition to the exercises on the app, the members have virtual access to a coach for 12 weeks who can talk them through their goals and connect how the training will help them. At the end of the 12 weeks, the members “graduate,” but still have access to the activities, Mahncke said. If they need to, they can also repeat the 12-week coaching.
“What that coach can do is say, ‘Hey, how does this improve what you actually care about?’” Mahncke said. “Maybe you’d like to feel more steady on your feet as you walk down the stairs … or maybe you have grandkids you want to be able to play with.”
The program is offered at no cost to the eligible members, while Highmark pays Posit Science to provide the service. The insurer chose to include BrainHQ to its insurance plan because it wanted to offer benefits that go beyond typical healthcare, said Beth Dimpfl, senior product consultant at Highmark.
“Health and wellbeing is far beyond just going to your doctor and getting your blood pressure checked and your mammogram and your colonoscopy,” Dimpfl said. “There’s a whole lot that goes into what makes an individual healthy and this is certainly a piece of it.”
Other brain apps include Lumosity and Elevate. But Mahncke said the company differs from those consumer apps that are available on the Apple App store because it has validation through clinical trials. The fact that the company has been selected by a health plans like Highmark also distinguishes Posit Science’s BrainHQ from the competition, he touted.
Further, the company has partnerships with about a dozen Medicare Advantage plans, but those collaborations are different from the one it has with Highmark, Mahncke said. The MA plans provide BrainHQ as a population health benefit, meaning they offer it to all members and not for a specific condition. Unlike Highmark’s program, these plans don’t provide a structured curriculum with a coach.
While the partnership with Highmark is starting with a select group of members at a high risk of falling, Dimpfl said the company will be running an analysis at the end of the demo year to determine if the program can be expanded.
“We need to see the results,” Dimpfl said. “We need to be able to go through the process and get a directional analysis, but the partnership has been off to a great start … as long as we continue on that directional analysis, that would certainly be a great direction to go.”
Photo: Jolygon, Getty Images.