Florida State University and Scene Health Receive $1.67M NIH Grant to Improve Medication Adherence for Children with Heart Transplants
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award of $1.67 million has been granted to Scene Health (formerly emocha Health), a leading video medication adherence platform. This grant will enable pediatric transplant physicians in Florida to deploy Scene’s platform to provide personalized interventions to improve overall medication adherence to immunosuppressive therapy, prevent related hospitalizations, and reduce the potential of rejection among adolescent heart transplant patients. The aim of the grant is to reduce organ rejection among children who need life-changing heart transplants in Florida by providing free support to improve medication adherence.
Adherence to medication is essential for pediatric heart transplant patients, especially for adolescent patients who struggle to take their medications consistently due to social factors. Non-adherence rates in teenage patients can be as high as 60%. Failure to adhere to the medication regimen can result in the rejection of the transplanted heart, leading to hospitalization or even death. Scene’s mobile app will allow patients to connect with a care team of pharmacists, nurses, and health coaches through asynchronous daily video check-ins anytime and anywhere. The app makes it fun for patients to stay on top of their medications, helps them address any medication challenges, and empowers them to improve their health by identifying and addressing barriers to adherence related to social determinants of health.
The grant will build on the published findings of a 12-week pilot study to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of using video Directly Observed Therapy (video DOT) to help adolescent heart transplant patients track and improve adherence. The pilot study found that those who completed the program had a 90.1% adherence rate. For comparison, five of the six patients who did not begin video DOT or dropped out of the study were hospitalized or experienced episodes of acute organ rejection. This grant will allow the investigators to perform a randomized control trial to assess the impact of video DOT on a larger scale and across multiple pediatric heart transplant centers.
The Initiative for the Advancement of Pediatric Transplant Health Research was launched by Drs. Killian and Gupta, which taps into a statewide network of health researchers, clinicians, and pediatric heart transplant centers. The interdisciplinary research team includes Dr. Mia Lustria, Ph.D., a professor at Florida State’s School of Information, to tackle this difficult problem.
Scene Health’s approach has been validated in over 12 clinical research studies across 19 peer-reviewed publications. At least 25 independent research studies and trials are completed, underway, or planned using Scene’s platform to secure adherence. The CDC has endorsed video Directly Observed Therapy (video DOT) as equivalent to in-person DOT for tuberculosis treatment. With roots in using video DOT to secure adherence for tuberculosis and hepatitis C patients, Scene has now expanded to support patients across multiple chronic and infectious conditions, including diabetes, asthma, cholesterol, opioid use disorder, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, hypertension, solid organ transplants, and sickle cell disease.
In conclusion, the NIH/NHLBI grant will allow Scene Health to expand its efforts to support medication adherence in one of the highest-risk patient populations. The platform will provide personalized interventions to improve overall medication adherence to immunosuppressive therapy, prevent related hospitalizations, and reduce the potential of rejection among adolescent heart transplant patients. The grant announcement comes on the heels of the CDC endorsement of video Directly Observed Therapy (video DOT) as equivalent to in-person DOT for tuberculosis treatment. Scene Health’s platform has the potential to improve outcomes for pediatric heart transplant patients and reduce organ rejection, especially for adolescent patients who often struggle to stick to medication regimens.