Highmark Health's VITAL Innovation Platform validates effective drug-free treatment for panic attacks

At 12 months post-​treatment, partic­i­pants’ total medical costs reduced by 50 percent, ER costs by 64 percent, and medica­tion costs by 53 percent.

PITTSBURGH and DANVILLE Ca. — Highmark Health, Allegheny Health Network, and Palo Alto Health Sciences, manu­fac­turer of Freespira, today announced the results of a pilot program completed through Highmark Health’s VITAL Program.

In an effort to help health plan members who suffer from panic disorder (PD) and panic attacks, the goal was to demon­strate that once panic attacks were reduced or elim­i­nated, utiliza­tion of medical services and the asso­ci­ated costs would be reduced. Results showed that after just four weeks of using Freespira®, more than eighty percent of the partic­i­pants treated were panic attack free. Moreover, eighty percent were panic attack free and ninety-​three percent reported overall panic symptom reduc­tion at twelve months post-​treatment.

Fifty partic­i­pants were enrolled in the program by Allegheny Health Network ther­a­pists who provided the initial training on the Freespira device; patients then took Freespira home for twice daily use and followed up with four weekly visits. The partic­i­pants were assessed at the start of the program, imme­di­ately following the Freespira treat­ment, and again at six and twelve months post-​treatment.

Freespira is an FDA-​cleared, in-​home digital ther­a­peutic device for panic disorder and panic attacks occur­ring with other anxiety condi­tions. Most people with panic chron­i­cally hyper­ven­ti­late, not just when having a panic attack. Freespira corrects this dysfunc­tional breathing by using a sensor and guided breathing protocol to train patients to normalize their exhaled carbon dioxide level and stabi­lize their breathing rate — which elim­i­nates or reduces panic attacks and other panic symp­toms for at least 12 months post-​treatment1.

Highmark Health created the VITAL program to provide promising new, FDA-​cleared treat­ments to patients without undue delays or complexity. We’re very excited about the results of the Freespira program, both in terms of the imme­diate and long-​term results,” said Sarah Ahmad, Senior Vice President of Innovation, Highmark Health. The VITAL program is focused on improving outcomes for partic­i­pants, while vali­dating and fast-​tracking a product that has the poten­tial to improve quality of life for the more than 27 million Americans who expe­ri­ence panic attacks annually2.”

Panic attacks are primarily asso­ci­ated with anxiety disor­ders such as gener­al­ized anxiety disorder, PTSD, and social anxiety. While panic is often thought of as a mental health condi­tion, indi­vid­uals also expe­ri­ence debil­i­tating phys­i­o­logic symp­toms like chest pains, feeling faint, nauseous, and numb­ness in the fingers and toes trig­gered by their breathing irreg­u­lar­i­ties. Patients often misin­ter­pret these phys­ical sensa­tions as a serious medical event such as heart attack or stroke, leading to over-​utilization of medical services, such as ED visits, diag­nostic testing, medica­tions, primary, and behav­ioral health provider visits.

Improving health outcomes for the patient and reducing overall medical costs is a win-​win-​win for the patient, provider and insurer,” said Debra Reisenthel, CEO of Palo Alto Health Sciences, Inc. These clin­ical outcomes were consis­tent with prior clin­ical trials in different settings, further vali­dating Freespira’s efficacy3.”

We are very excited to see such lasting results from a 1-​month, drug-​free treat­ment that can dramat­i­cally improve the quality of life for our patients and reduce total medical costs” said Anthony P. Mannarino, Ph.D. Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Allegheny General Hospital. It was also very promising to see high ther­a­pist and patient satis­fac­tion and 85 percent patient adherence1, confirming that using Freespira as a first line treat­ment for panic disorder and panic attacks makes good sense clin­i­cally and finan­cially.”

1 Source: VITAL | Allegheny Health Network | Highmark Health | Freespira® pilot 2015 – 2017
2 Source: US Census Adult popu­la­tion = 260 million; 11.2 percent of adults expe­ri­ence panic attack annu­ally
3 Source Tolin D, McGrath P, et al, A Multisite Benchmarking Trial of Capnometry Guided Respiratory Intervention for Panic Disorder in Naturalistic Treatment Settings, Jour Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, (2017) 42: 51 – 58.

About Highmark Health’s VITAL Innovation Platform
VITAL’s mission is to leverage Highmark Health’s posi­tion as one of the largest inte­grated health care delivery and financing systems in the nation to accel­erate the pace with which novel tech­nolo­gies and services are made avail­able to our customers. In doing so, members and patients will be afforded access to safe new tech­nolo­gies without undue finan­cial burden while payers will be able to under­stand the full impact of new tech­nolo­gies on their members without changing insur­ance medical policy prema­turely. Additionally, providers will gain early access to novel tech­nolo­gies and a first-​hand under­standing of their impact on patients. Technology vendors will have the oppor­tu­nity to prove the bene­fits of their new inno­va­tions to patients, providers and payers. More details about Highmark Health’s VITAL Innovation Platform can be found at: http://​vital​in​no​va​tion​pro​gram​.org

About Palo Alto Health Sciences and Freespira®
At the fore­front of revo­lu­tion­izing behav­ioral health­care with evidence-​based, at-​home, drug-​free solu­tions. Their first product, Freespira®, is an FDA-​cleared treat­ment for indi­vid­uals suffering from panic disorder, panic attacks and other symp­toms of panic.

Freespira® is commer­cially avail­able in the U.S. is an FDA-​cleared, medication-​free, 4-​week treat­ment for panic attacks and other panic symp­toms. Treatment is autho­rized and completed under the super­vi­sion of a licensed health­care provider and is clin­i­cally proven to reduce or elim­i­nate panic attacks and other symp­toms of panic disorder, a mental health condi­tion in which debil­i­tating anxiety leads to life-​altering avoid­ance behav­iors. Individuals with panic chron­i­cally hyper­ven­ti­late, even when not expe­ri­encing a panic attack. This abnormal breathing pattern has been shown to exac­er­bate panic attacks and increase suscep­ti­bility to panic symp­toms. Freespira uses a custom sensor and twice-​daily at-​home protocol to train patients to stabi­lize their respi­ra­tion rate and exhaled carbon dioxide levels, thereby reducing or elim­i­nating panic attacks. To learn more, please visit: http://​www​.frees​pira​.com or contact info@​pahealthsciences.​com

About Highmark Health
Highmark Health, a Pittsburgh, Pa. based enter­prise that employs more than 40,000 people nation­wide and serves nearly 50 million Americans in all 50 states, is the second largest inte­grated health care delivery and financing network in the nation based on revenue. Highmark Health is the parent company of Highmark Inc., Allegheny Health Network, and HM Health Solutions. Highmark Inc. and its subsidiaries and affil­i­ates provide health insur­ance to nearly 5 million members in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware as well as dental insur­ance, vision care and related health prod­ucts through a national network of diver­si­fied busi­nesses that include United Concordia Companies, HM Insurance Group, Davis Vision and Visionworks. Allegheny Health Network is the parent company of an inte­grated delivery network that includes eight hospi­tals, more than 2,800 affil­i­ated physi­cians, ambu­la­tory surgery centers, an employed physi­cian orga­ni­za­tion, home and community-​based health services, a research insti­tute, a group purchasing orga­ni­za­tion, and health and well­ness pavil­ions in western Pennsylvania. HM Health Solutions focuses on meeting the infor­ma­tion tech­nology plat­form and other busi­ness needs of the Highmark Health enter­prise as well as unaf­fil­i­ated health insur­ance plans by providing proven busi­ness processes, expert knowl­edge and inte­grated cloud-​based plat­forms. To learn more, please visit www​.high​markhealth​.org.


Sheila McCormick
Palo Alto Health Sciences

Lynn Seay
Highmark Health