LVG News

LVG Stories

Company Profile: WarmHealth Technology

A team of researchers in the Division of Infectious Disease and International Health, Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at UVA are developing a holistic solution to improve the lives and care for patients with chronic disease. Rebecca Dillingham, M.D., M.P.H., Karen Ingersoll, Ph.D., and Ava Lena Waldman, M.H.S., have conceptualized an approach called warm technology to address the need for human connection among patients living with chronic disease. Warm technology allows patient communities to share their experiences and gain social support from one another. These connections help feelings of isolation fall away and long-term management of illness improves.

Dillingham and Ingersoll are both specialists at the UVA Ryan White Clinic and serve the HIV+ patient community in Virginia where warm technology stands to make a meaningful impact. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2014, only 48 percent of people living with HIV were retained in continuous care. This deficiency compromises the health of individuals who are not engaged in care while also increasing the risk of new HIV infections in the community.

To bring the warm technology concept to scale, the team continued work on their custom smartphone application with additional funding from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). The app, PositiveLinks, is a HIPAA-compliant platform that allows people living with HIV to communicate securely with healthcare providers from their local clinic.

PositiveLinks also includes an anonymous community message board that facilitates a virtual community to connect people living with HIV, and offers brief educational quizzes about managing their health. The platform encourages daily check-ins to monitor personal health behavior, mental health status, and provides appointment information.

Funded by AIDS United and the M.A.C. AIDS Fund, the team conducted a pilot PositiveLinks Program study which involved 77 patients from the UVA Ryan White Clinic and the surrounding rural communities representing a diverse population across age, ethnicity, sex, and gender identity. The results, published in the scientific journal “AIDS Patient Care and STDs” in June 2018, revealed that consistent use of the app correlated with an increase in regular clinic visits and an improvement in health status. During the first six months of the study, the research team saw a 37 percent increase in regular HIV clinic visits among participants.

“PositiveLinks was developed with significant input from our patients for the entire duration of the project,” said Dillingham. “We believe that this collaborative approach to creating and testing a clinical intervention made it more appealing to our patients and contributed to the terrific outcomes.”

As the study concluded and its results showed significant improvement in long-term care of HIV+ patients, the researchers engaged with LVG to determine how to empower patients around Virginia with warm technology. Together with the UVA Health System, LVG supported the launch of the new venture, WarmHealth Technology (WHT) in 2018, and licensed the PositiveLinks software to the company.

LVG has taken a special interest in nurturing this new venture for its potential to impact healthcare costs associated with managing chronic disease. The team of licensing and business professionals at LVG meet regularly with WHT to discuss commercialization strategies, offer marketing support, and tap the UVA network to identify potential partners and employees to support the company’s growth.

WarmHealth Technology is creating the infrastructure necessary to extend the PositiveLinks model to other interested clinics and organizations that care for people living with HIV outside of Virginia. With support from VDH, the research team has already expanded the program to Inova in Northern Virginia and to Lynchburg.

Patients with many chronic diseases face barriers to care including limited access, poor health literacy, stigma, and psychological burdens that reduce their abilities to maintain their health regimens over time. WarmHealth Technology is committed to overcoming those barriers by creating a secure virtual environment where empathy, community, and patient-centeredness lead to optimal health outcomes to help patients thrive. 

To learn more about WarmHealth Technology, visit: https://www.wht.care/