Do digital health interventions work for Medicaid-enrolled children?

At Propeller, we believe there is a tremendous opportunity for digital health interventions to improve health outcomes for underserved populations, but more research is needed. Examining the impact of digital health interventions in asthma is especially important within at-risk groups, such as children of lower socioeconomic status, who face disparities in asthma morbidity. 

Recently, Propeller teamed up with the Detroit Health Department, Detroit Public Schools Community District, Wayne State University and Kids’ Health Connections (KHC), a nonprofit that provides health education and services to Medicaid-enrolled and other economically disadvantaged children in Detroit, to deliver a digital program to help children and their caregivers better manage their asthma between healthcare appointments.

The program was open to children aged 6-13 years and included access to Propeller’s inhaler sensors, which recorded the frequency of inhaler use, and the Propeller smartphone app, which provided education, feedback and reminders. Caregivers and providers also received regular access to the data and were invited to discuss trends in the children’s respiratory health with KHC and their other clinical providers. 

Over three months, mean rescue inhaler use decreased from 0.68 to 0.25 puffs per day among the 51 children enrolled — a 63% decrease in rescue inhaler use, which means that children were possibly experiencing fewer asthma-related symptoms. 

The mean number of days without any rescue inhaler use also increased by nearly three days per month, further suggesting that children enjoyed more days without impact from their asthma. Overall, 76% of the participants improved their number of days without rescue use. 

“Kids’ Health Connections works closely with kids and their families to improve their outcomes with asthma,” said Teresa Holtrop, MD, Executive and Medical Director of KHC. “Our team of nurses and asthma educators used the data from Propeller sensors to inform conversations with our patients, and their clinical providers, to work towards more coordinated care and better outcomes.” 

We’re highly encouraged that, alongside the appropriate care resources and tools, digital health interventions for asthma can make a meaningful impact in the lives of socioeconomically disadvantaged youth. More research, funding and policies, like standardized Medicaid reimbursement for digital health, are needed to expand access and improve outcomes.