3 reasons payers fail to develop effective apps

A majority of health insurance companies are failing when it comes to mHealth app efforts, according to the Health Insurance App Benchmarking Report 2015 released this month by research2guidance.

Nearly three quarters of payers, 70 percent, are "hesitant" when it comes to app development and have built just one or two apps; and 77 percent have built mHealth apps that have no significant impact on users. Just 9 percent are described as "active with above average impact," the report says.

Payers are failing in mHealth app development for several reasons, according to the report's authors, including these three:

  1. An inability to leverage assets
  2. No adherence to compliance requirements
  3. No realization of the benefits of cross-promotional strategies

The research reveals that of the payers that do have apps, 67 percent have achieved less than 100,000 downloads.

"The majority of apps in the portfolio of healthcare payers belong to the long-tail," according to the report, which cites Aetna as an example of app success. The company has published 28 apps for Android and iOS devices and boasts 14 million downloads. Yet 85 percent of the downloads is tied to just one app, iTriage.

The dismal statistics come at a time when patient and physician interest in mHealth apps is on the rise. As FierceMobileHealthcare has reported, one surgeon built an app to help with knee surgery recovery and Northwestern Medicine researchers are studying the use of a wearable fitness tracker for patients recuperating from spine surgery. A study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research released late in 2014 notes nearly half of American adults--48 percent--are extremely interested in using smartphone and tablets for checking blood pressure. 

The research2guidance study states that payers' failure in crafting high-impact apps is tied to not following key best practices, which include incorporating tracking and coaching capabilities for user engagement, integration into IT healthcare infrastructure and good design and usability. Providers are also failing to tap integrated incentive schemes, such as providing financial rewards for app use.

For more information:
- read the report

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