News & Press

September 7, 2016

Weight Loss Patients Get Digital Support

Apollo Endosurgery, maker of the FDA-approved Orbera gastric balloon for weight loss, has teamed with Zillion to give patients a digital health support program.

In an example of the continued merging of medical devices and digital health technologies, weight loss device company Apollo Endosurgery and online interaction platform company Zillion have announced a partnership. Zillion will facilitate the Orbera Coach program, to give patients who receive Apollo’s Orbera gastric balloon a year of telehealth support.

FDA approved the Orbera Intragastric Balloon in August 2015 to help adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30-40 lose and keep off weight. The Zillion platform will give Orbera patients access to a support program that includes live video conferencing with dieticians, exercise physiologists, and psychologists, as well as weight loss tracking, content, a personal journal, recipes, and meal plans, according to a release about the partnership. Physicians also have access to data to help care for patients.

Though the release describes Orbera Coach as an “aftercare” program, Bill Van Wyck, president and chief innovation officer at Norwalk, CT-based Zillion, told MD+DI that the program also includes preoperative care. He explained that patients interested in getting the Orbera balloon are onboarded for the coaching platform at the medical practice. By putting in their anticipated balloon insertion date, patients get support for preoperative weight loss and preconditioning before the procedure and then information and expert support for the changes that follow the balloon insertion, including meal plans. After the balloon is removed at six months, patients continue to use the digital program to help maintain the weight loss.

“With Orbera Coach, patients now have 24/7 access to tools that can assist them along their weight loss journey and keep them focused on reaching and maintaining their fitness and nutrition goals,” Apollo Endosurgery CEO Todd Newton said in the release.

Van Wyck said that patients have access to the digital program for 52 weeks, including 12-15 sessions with registered dieticians. Patients also have the option to renew access after one year.

Zillion was founded in 2010 and was initially an appointment scheduling engine for patients, physical therapists, and clinicians, Van Wyck said. In time, it became apparent that healthcare needed a way to connect a digital workforce with patients. Zillion’s technology incorporates live video conferencing, communication, content, data analytics, and scheduling onto one platform.

Apollo Endosurgery approached Zillion with the idea for a digital support program after hearing about the company’s capabilities from another Zillion client. “When [the Apollo representative] saw what we had and how it operated all together, he knew he could get a product implemented and into this highly competitive market quickly,” Van Wyck said.

Support of some kind is important to patient outcomes, Van Wyck said. For weight loss, “more than 50% of outcomes are tied to the program that support the device . . . You can’t just put a device in and walk away from the patient,” he said.

Giving patients digital support as opposed to in-person appointments could be particularly helpful for smaller GI practices without the full staff support—nutritional coaches and therapists—of a large weight loss center. “Offering a system that can augment a workforce is really something that’s unique. I think that’s one of the key value propositions of Zillion,” Van Wyck noted.

Van Wyck said Zillion is planning other partnerships in healthcare, including digital health offferings for pre-diabetes, orthopedics, prenatal care, bariatric, diabetes, and potentially smoking cessation as well.

“I think what we’re seeing in the healthcare space is a convergence of devices, which not only include devices like the Orbera Balloon, but also IoT [Internet of Things] products such as trackers, monitors, blood monitoring devices, that are feeding data into a system. You also see the need of healthcare providers to be able to scale expensive resources out to patients and do a better job of managing patients at scale outside of facilities. Zillion was built for that purpose to help our customers combine people, content, and evidence-based programs together so that they can create digital programs and products for their customers,” Van Wyck concluded.