Seeking Patient Engagement, Payer Curates Mobile Apps

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , July 9, 2013

The 20-plus apps Aetna has picked touch more than 100 million consumers today. Some of the numbers for each app are staggering. MapMyFitness has 30 million users. RunKeeper has 25 million. Aetna's scrambling to get in front of a parade already under way.

Each of these apps already has its own community, its own social network, and its own structure of peer support. Aetna pulled in another virtuous cycle by incorporating consumer-entered data from healthy eating apps such as FatSecret or Lose It! CarePass then generates custom discounts in local supermarkets, powered by Zipongo, yet another app tapped for CarePass prominence.

Martha Wofford, Aetna

Aetna vice president Martha Wofford heads the CarePass initiative.

If CarePass is the Aetna wellness app, iTriage remains its health app—the place Aetna sends its members (or non-members) for symptom checking and doctor referrals. But starting later this year, the lines between the two will start to blur. At that point, CarePass will begin to connect with some of the mobile apps that strive to help people manage, and remember to take, their medications, says Aetna vice president Martha Wofford, who heads the CarePass initiative.

"It's obviously a difficult space," Wofford says. "I don't think any of the solutions are super-strong yet, but again it's an important part of the whole process for many consumers."

There's still a lot of friction in the digital practice of wellness. People generally can't be bothered with entering their calories or food choices. Passive devices such as FitBit (supported by CarePass) take over some of the work. The most important new device in the home is probably the Withings scale (also supported by CarePass) which captures that all-important regular weight reading and uploads it to the Withings servers and from there on to Aetna.

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