For the past few years San Francisco-based Sessions has been developing a direct-to-consumer, mobile-enabled program for inactivity and nutrition. Sessions, which was a member of digital health accelerator Rock Health’s second class in 2012, is currently enrolling about 80 people on a rolling basis for a randomized control trial of its coaching program at the Mayo Clinic. Sessions first did an internal pilot at Mayo last year, which apparently went well enough to lead to the RCT opportunity.
“We started Sessions because we wanted to develop these prescriptions for lifestyle diseases,” Sessions CEO Nick Crocker told MobiHealthNews in a recent interview. “We are also trying to deliver these programs with a level of confidence and proven efficacy that doctors will be comfortable with. So, while we are a consumer company, we are trying to validate the approach we are taking through our partnership with Mayo.”
Crocker says one of the the key challenges for companies like Sessions is whenever they talk to a provider or payer the first question they’re asked is: “Does this stuff work?” Crocker says the team is confident in their engagement levels since those are easy enough to track, but he also believes proving efficacy in an RCT that tracks (hopefully) positive changes in biometrics over a period of time will show that the program is not just sticky but that it also gets results.
Sessions offers a 16-week program for $79 a month that includes a real life coach who works with you to make a plan to get moving either by going to the gym, walking more, playing sports — whatever you and the coach can come up with that seems to be the most likely way to get you moving. The coach helps Sessions users to choose achievable goals and sends reminders and encouragement along the way through various channels, including phone calls, text messages, or emails.
“We are are going to track the biometric impact of our program over 12 weeks, six months, and 12 months,” Crocker said. The RCT will track biometrics like A1C, blood pressure, and quality of life — among others. Since the trial is just beginning the team can’t disclose too many of the details in case it might bias results.
“Lifestyle is the chronic disease epidemic of our time, we need solutions to address that,” Crocker said. “You see a lot of pharmaceutical products for these issues, but I think that will become the exception to the rule. Whether it is one, five, or ten years from now, doctors will start prescribing these programs to patients looking for a solution for weight management or inactivity,” he said. “No doctor is writing prescriptions for this kind of program tomorrow, but in the next one or two years I think they will. The programs that they will prescribe are the ones that have proven efficacy.”
Crocker notes that most of the direct to consumer digital health discussion has focused on wearable devices as of late, but those companies are mostly just solving issues surrounding the acquisition or capture of data.
“I think the next phase for people to ask ‘what is the most effective way to interpret and use this data?’” Crocker said. “It’s going to start to get really interesting when these tools will augment the next phase of the cycle, which I think is going to be all about effective interventions.”