Right now in health and human services, we’re trying to move mobile apps from the “early adopter” group to the broader population (see For Apps, Consumers Are In and Is There Any Regulation Of Health Care Apps?). This means crossing the disruptive innovation “chasm” – a concept discussed by Geoffrey A. Moore in his book, Crossing the Chasm.
The concept? There is a chasm between the “early adopters” of any product or technology, who are excited about innovation for the sake of innovation, and the “early majority,” who need the new technology to be a pragmatic, affordable tool. Getting from one side of the chasm takes choosing the proper target market, product positioning, strategy, and affordability.
It turns out, payers are having their share of problems getting across the chasm. Many payers have invested significantly in mobile apps for health management – with some limited success. According to a recent report from research2guidance (see Why Health Insurance Companies Fail To Generate Significant Reach With Their App Portfolio), among health insurance companies that have one or two apps, 67% have achieved less than 100,000 downloads or less.
What are some of the apps available? While it has proven impossible to find a comprehensive list of all available payer apps, the major payers each have a few “go-to” products:
- Aetna’s two primary mobile apps are their members-only Aetna Mobile (both a mobile web and app version), and the free, publicly available iTriage. Aetna mobile allows users to search for clinicians, find Urgent Care centers, and access the Aetna secure member site. iTriage allows users to ask medical questions, check symptoms, connect to care options, and manage their health information.
- Last summer, United released the publicly available app Health4Me (see UnitedHealthcare’s Free Health4Me Mobile App Now Available to Everyone), which gives users access to health information, including market average prices. Health4Me compliments United’s existing suite of apps, including: DocGPS, OptumizeMeSM, Smart Patient. OptumizeMe allows users to engage and track their wellness activities. The DocGPS application provides information about UnitedHealthcare’s national network of physicians, clinics and hospitals. Smart Patient allows consumers to manage their own health care.
- Cigna offers two primary apps, their myCigna for U.S. customers and Cigna Envoy for expatriate customers. Both apps allow consumers to organize and access their important health information.
- Humana offers their MyHumana mobile website and app, which includes access to the members-only Humana Vitality Dashboard. This app allows consumers to review their plan, review claim status, find in-network providers, research health care prices, refill prescriptions, and set medication reminders.
With all these app options available, why the slow adoption rate? The challenges are attributed to a few factors:
- Failure to produce “state of the art” apps – Most health insurance companies aren’t adhering to the six best practices that are necessary for app development. These include tracking and coaching, automated input, remote consultation, secure use of mHealth data, integrating into the IT health care infrastructure, and superior design/usability.
- Failure to realize the potential of app integrated incentive schemes – Most health insurance companies aren’t linking app-based financial rewards for the healthy (i.e., cost saving) decisions of plan members.
- Failure to successfully cross-promote their app portfolio – Most health insurance companies aren’t marketing their apps using important cross-promotions that bring the app to the attention of consumers, no matter where they interact with the organization. This includes using “more apps screens, pop-ups and push notifications.”
How to get better adoption of digital medical technologies – whether you’re a payer organization or a provider organization? It would seem there are a few keys (which apply to successful adoption of any technology). First, apps (and new technologies) need to be integrated into business operations – whether that is the intake process, customer communication, clinical service delivery, or billing. Second, there need to be incentives for the “target customer” to use the technology. That can be financial incentives – or it can be time savings, additional functionality or more. And, last but not least, communication. Obviously, this is easier said than done.
For more on technology adoption, check out these resources:
- Technology Only Goes As Far As You’ll Let It
- Optimizing Performance Measurement Through Culture Change & Technology Adoption
- Making Mobile Tech Work In Health & Human Services (Or Any Tech For That Matter)
- Building Your Own Tech-Enabled Consumer Base
- Apps Aren’t For Techies Anymore
- New Technologies Improve Human Capital Management
- Tools for Remote Management of Your Mobile Workforce
- Strategic Issues In Technology Planning
- Telehealth & The Behavioral Health Market: Adoption of New Technologies Will Change Service Delivery Forever
And, for a firsthand look at two payer organizations who are making it work, join me on June 17 for my session Digital Medicine In U.S. Health Care: Payers Who Are Making It Work, with Elizabeth A. Holden, Program Director, Commercial Products, UPMC Health Plan at the 2015 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute.