Plans see a future in mobile apps

December 1, 2013

National insurers are betting on new tech tools to click with members

Health plans are looking to established brands to develop health apps for mobile devices. What is particularly attractive about the new engagement tools for members is that they have potential to expand in the future.

For example, Cigna is developing a tool with Samsung Electronics for S Health, Samsung’s proprietary fitness tracking app. While officials aren’t revealing the new tool’s details, they say it will start with health-related tips delivered to Samsung mobile phones and grow to connect individuals with providers.

“It could expand to smart TV and to refrigerators and to other products,” says Benjy Karsch, Cigna’s global marketing officer, who heads the project.

For example, one of Samsung’s latest consumer products is a wristwatch that synchs with the user’s mobile phone via Bluetooth and provides phone and camera features.

“There are enormous potential applications in the health area with a device like that,” Karsch says.

He also says Samsung has 250 million mobile devices globally, which is a good fit with Cigna’s global health insurance footprint. The partnership includes some feature exclusivity between the two entities, he says, with Cigna providing the content and Samsung providing the app development.

He believes big brands with market reach and recognition are key.

“Brand is critical in the market,” Karsch says. “People who make decisions about which mobile device to purchase, and people who make decisions about which healthcare to purchase do so through a brand.”

Payment App

Aetna is working with Citi in the development of a mobile and web-based patient payment solution called Money2 for Health. Members will be able to use their mobile devices to reconcile provider bills and review their claims.

Citi owns the payment platform, which will bring together a network of healthcare providers and insurance carriers-beyond just Aetna. The long-term goal is to create a multi-payer platform.

Out-of-pocket expenses are estimated to reach as much as $1 trillion, while providers are expecting $200 billion in bad debt by 2019, according to Citi analysis of Health and Human Services data. Collecting payments from patients directly adds administrative costs for providers, especially with the rise in high-deductible health plans.

Patients will be able to use the Money2 for Health application to pay all enrolled providers using their preferred payment method, and it will be available to customers of any bank. Citi has approximately 200 million customer accounts.