More Than 23,500 Blue Shield of California Members Reclaim Their Health in First Year of Reimagined Wellvolution Program

Subtitle
Digital and community health network supports members to achieve health goals; 83,000 pounds lost, blood sugar lowered, chronic conditions reversed


OAKLAND, Calif. (July 15, 2020) – In just one year, more than 23,500 Blue Shield of California members enrolled in Wellvolution – the nonprofit health plan’s innovative digital and community health network – have prioritized their health and well-being, reporting weight loss, reduced stress and reversal in chronic conditions such as diabetes.

The Wellvolution platform uses decades of research and leading technology to deliver personalized support, offering nearly 60 digital apps and 30,000 brick-and-mortar community locations, the largest network of such providers in the nation.

Wellvolution’s algorithm, developed in collaboration with Solera Health, matches members with customized programs and digital coaches. It is available to most Blue Shield members with their benefit plan at no additional cost, and is another example of how the health plan is reimagining health for individuals, families and communities.

“We know that people want options in improving their health, depending on their personal preferences,” said Bryce Williams, vice president of Mind Body Medicine at Blue Shield of California. “Wellvolution puts members at the center of its program and lets them choose the direction they want to take.”

Members said their top reason to join Wellvolution was to lose weight, with about 13,000 participants reporting they lost a total of more than 83,000 pounds in the first six months of starting the program. Other top reasons for joining Wellvolution were to move more, reduce stress and eat more healthily. The average age of participants was 49 with the largest age group between 50 and 59 years old. Women outnumbered men (72 percent vs. 28 percent) in the program’s first year.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more members are tapping into Wellvolution. Engagement has spiked as much as 10 times compared to pre-pandemic levels, and there has been a significant increase in communication between members and their digital coaches online.  

“Our providers quickly pivoted when the pandemic began and have adapted their strategies and approaches to address the reality of being indoors for hours each day and with potentially limited access to fresh foods and outdoor exercise,” Williams said.

“I enrolled in Wellvolution just as the pandemic was escalating and during the first days of coronavirus panic-buying, I was worried,” said Hector Acosta, a Los Angeles optician who is enrolled in Wellvolution’s Virta Health program. “But I found that all the food I could eat was available – meat, vegetables, butter, oils and other sources of fat I needed to replace carbs.”

First Year Results

More than half of the program participants in its first year were matched with digital-app high-acuity programs tailored to address specific health conditions or risks such as reversing or preventing diabetes, lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol, and eliminating the need for prescription drugs.

Wellvolution programs that address specific health issues are measured for clinical outcomes, which are established quality assurance and improvement standards in the medical industry. Data from Wellvolution’s best-performing programs show sustained clinical outcomes for members in normalization of A1C numbers* or at least a 5 percent weight loss. Among these programs:

  • 60 percent of members signed up for weight management
    • 31 percent of those members achieved the clinical outcome of 5 percent weight loss.
  • 30 percent of members enrolled for diabetes prevention
    • 27 percent of those members have reached positive clinical outcomes such as normalization of A1C numbers, healthier blood pressure and/or at least 5 percent weight loss. 
  • 10 percent of members signed up for diabetes treatment and reversal programs
    • More than 40 percent of those members achieved clinical outcomes such as normalization of A1C numbers, healthier blood pressure and/or at least 5 percent weight loss.

Program Outcomes

Below are snapshots of member outcomes from three popular, clinically proven digital programs in Wellvolution that helped members address health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and allergies:

  • Virta Health: In six months, 93 percent of participants improved their blood sugar levels, with a 1.6 percent average A1C reduction. Research shows that a 1 percent reduction in A1C levels can reduce diabetes complications by 28 percent. Further, 74 percent of patients, in consultation with their physicians, have eliminated at least one diabetes medication, and those on insulin when they started the Virta treatment saw their dosage reduced by an average of 76 percent.
  • Betr Health: Within 90 days, Wellvolution members using Betr Health saw an average weight loss of 12.6 percent and 1.4 percent reduction in A1C. In addition, 91 percent of members reported lower blood pressure and inflammation with improved sleep, digestion, mood and energy, and 86 percent of members, with the guidance of their physician, reported reducing or eliminating one or more medications.
  • Digbi Health: Among participants, 72 percent saw an 8.92 percent average weight loss, and members with pre-diabetes or diabetes have seen an average decline of 1.01 percent in their A1C levels. In addition, 75 percent experienced reduced Irritable Bowel Syndrome and acid reflux; 75 percent experienced relief from headaches/migraines; 66 percent decreased their anxiety; and 66 percent lowered their chronic pain.

Member Experiences

“I have reversed my Type 2 diabetes and I can eat just about anything I want and especially vegetables, which I love,” said retired Air Force Crew Chief Rick Fowler, 60, of Riverside, Calif. who is using the Virta Health digital app. “I may not be able to get toilet paper, but I can certainly find vegetables that fit with my Wellvolution plan, and lots of cream cheese. Virta had me at cream cheese. As Covid-19 was escalating, my enrollment advisor said that there has never been a better time for telemedicine and seeing doctors virtually. He was so right. If someone my age can start in the middle of a pandemic, anyone should be able to start at any time.”
“I never knew I was eating foods – for years – that aggravated my asthma and allergies until I started Wellvolution,” said Abebi Bain, 47, an elementary school teacher in Covina, Calif. using the Betr Health app. “After just a few weeks on my digital app plan I didn’t need all the meds for my allergies and my asthma inhaler. People tell me I look younger and I feel it. Especially in my ability to manage stress. And my aches and pains are gone. I can actually wear my high heels again without feeling pain.”

“The gut-biome and genetics results I got were critical to keeping me motivated and they also provided some surprises,” said Emily Morales, 33, an intake therapist in Pasadena, Calif. working on a PhD in clinical psychology. “I have a Mexican heritage and learned that eating a European diet (meat-heavy, small vegetable portions) wasn’t good for my body. I also learned I was allergic to several types of foods, which I ate often. Now I’m eating the right foods for my genetics and I have a lot more energy and greater focus for my work and academic goals.”

*AIC is a blood test that measures a person’s average blood sugar levels over the past three months; it is used to diagnose risk for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

About Blue Shield of California
Blue Shield of California strives to create a healthcare system worthy of its family and friends that is sustainably affordable. Blue Shield of California is a tax paying, nonprofit, independent member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association with over 4 million members, 6,800 employees and more than $20 billion in annual revenue. Founded in 1939 in San Francisco and now headquartered in Oakland, Blue Shield of California and its affiliates provide health, dental, vision, Medicaid and Medicare healthcare service plans in California. The company has contributed more than $500 million to Blue Shield of California Foundation since 2002 to have an impact on California communities.

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