Highmark partners with Ria Health to offer alcohol use disorder-specific telehealth services

Pittsburgh-based Highmark has entered into an agreement with Ria Health, a telehealth provider specializing in alcohol use disorder treatment.

Through the partnership, Highmark members will be able to access Ria Health’s team of physicians and coaches virtually. The San Francisco, California-based company offers a personalized digital program that includes medication-assisted treatment and digital tools for psychosocial support. Its goal is to help people change their relationship with alcohol.

“Alcohol use disorder has historically low treatment rates and the stigma associated with getting care inhibits many people,” said Tom Nix, CEO of Ria Health, in an email. “Providing a telehealth-delivered program that is clinically effective and doesn’t disrupt the member’s work, family and community commitments removes the stigma for many treatment seekers.”

Claims data from Highmark shows that more than 41,000 of its approximately 5.6 million members were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder in 2019. This number has likely grown during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, a study published in JAMA Network Open last year shows that the frequency of alcohol consumption jumped 14% from 2019 to 2020.

“Telemedicine has been unquestionably beneficial to patient care since its inception, but to a large degree those benefits have remained unrealized for those requiring specialized treatment for substance issues,” said Demetrios Marousis, director of behavioral health at Highmark, in a news release. “Ria Health is not only offering an alternative but, in doing so, creating treatment accessibility.”

Further, Ria Health will work with Highmark to increase awareness about treatment options for an array of drinking goals, ranging from reducing harmful drinking to stopping completely. To measure success, the company and insurer will leverage various metrics, such as HEDIS and the WHO Alcohol Risk Score.

Though there are other companies offering virtual care for addiction, like Workit Health and Eleanor Health, Ria Health focuses only on alcohol use disorder.

“…by being narrow and deep, we can focus on providing the best patient experience and outcomes for AUD,” said Ria Health’s Nix. “Help-seeking behaviors are also shown to be stymied by stigma. Having a single-focused approach appeals to the member who may experience stigma around a multi-modality ‘addiction treatment.’”

Ria Health currently has contracts with several employee assistance programs and national payers, including Anthem and Optum. It is also working with health systems and virtual primary care providers, Nix said.

Photo: venimo, Getty Images




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