Micromass Develops Program for Heart Association

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Micromass Communications Inc., Cary, NC, has developed an online program for the American Heart Association that will not only help participants identify their potential risk for heart disease and stroke, but will enable them to modify their lifestyles to, perhaps, prevent illness.

"You're One of a Kind and so Is Your Life," currently in beta testing and scheduled to launch next month, will be offered to consumers through health maintenance organizations and employer groups. The program, which the 5-year-old Micromass will manage for the American Heart Association, is built on a foundation of proprietary software developed by Micromass that incorporates an elaborate interactive questionnaire.

"Managed care has wrestled every dime they can out of their expense side," said Dave Bulger, chairman and chief technology officer at Micromass. "To profit now, they either need to charge higher premiums or lower the risk of service utilization. An employer group or corporation is spending money now to keep you from having an acute event or a chronic disease."

The program compiles information about consumers - including personal and family medical history, age, gender and dietary habits - and tailors an ongoing program for participants to help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Personalized feedback is provided in real time.

"We're taking all of the [AHA] content and using our systems to carry on a conversation with each individual that uses the program," Bulger said. "The idea is to develop a relationship. The closer we get, the more subtle our conversation gets because we begin to share experiences." The site is designed for ongoing interaction.

Front-end and back-end analysis is central to the program's ability to develop those relationships, since each conversation with that participant enables the AHA to compile more data in its central database. This is then used to further tailor recommendations, such as helping people modify their diets based on behavioral approaches.

In addition to the online program, Micromass developed a call center link so participants can interact with the program by phone if they prefer. If the call center option is chosen, all communication is carried out through telemarketing and direct mail.

"For a launch, we need to make it fairly simple for folks to use," Bulger said. "What you want to be able to do is have a combination of the [offline and online], ideally."

Micromass is responsible for managing relationships with the call center and the printer, Daniels Printing, Asheville, NC, in addition to software development, questionnaire development and methodology, database management, and Web design.

The AHA has specific launch plans, according to Bulger, including which markets it will approach and when, comment before its official launch next month. Those markets will likely include hospitals, physicians, and other providers, in addition to managed care and employer programs.

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