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Highlights • Highmark Health

More than 6 million people in the United States annually suffer from panic disorder, a mental health condition in which debilitating anxiety and fear arise often and without apparent cause.

For millions of people with panic disorder: A breakthrough

More than 6 million people in the United States annually suffer from panic disorder, a mental health condition in which debilitating anxiety and fear arise often and without apparent cause. The symptoms can include a racing heart, shortness of breath and dizziness. Those suffering from a panic episode may believe they're having a heart attack or stroke, suffocating, or even losing their mind. In severe cases, people may stop leaving their homes, for fear of losing control in public.

Over $5 billion is spent annually in the United States on medications and cognitive therapy to treat panic disorder, with uneven results. Through our VITAL Innovation Program Highmark Health, in partnership with our health care provider Allegheny Health Network and Palo Alto Health Systems, is offering a breakthrough new technology, the Freespira Breathing System.

Cleared by the FDA in 2013, Freespira is a non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive four-week treatment clinically proven to help reduce or eliminate symptoms. Following direction from a therapist, patients use the Freespira device at home, where it measures respiration rate and carbon-dioxide levels in exhaled breath, training patients how to breathe—slowly and shallowly, emphasizing more complete exhalation.

"We created VITAL (Verification of Innovation by Testing, Analysis and Learning) to leverage Highmark Health's position as one of the leading health and wellness organizations in the nation," explained Alan J. Russell, chief innovation officer and executive vice president, Allegheny Health Network. "Our connected care and coverage structure enables us to engage patients, clinicians, vendors and the payer in rigorously testing and verifying new ideas and to accelerate the pace with which promising treatments like Freespira are made available to our customers."

"The Freespira treatment is particularly important because of the speed and efficacy demonstrated through the clinical trials," said Dr. Van Nickell, system chair, Department of Psychiatry, Allegheny Health Network. "Patients get well quickly and return to a normal life. By contrast, other current therapies show more inconsistent results."

As a key component of Highmark Health's efforts to get health care right, the VITAL Innovation Program is also currently advancing new technologies for treating diseases and conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and asthma, among others.

Learn more.


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