Health insurers fall short in using mobile tools to engage consumers

Though many health plans offer mobile apps, only 22 percent allow consumers to access data on the mobile Web‏, according to an article in eWeek.

The data is based on a ranking of the top 100 U.S. health insurance companies and how they engage with consumers to manage their own health. In the ranking from EveryMove, a health rewards-based marketing and incentives company, both regional and national plans were listed based on whether they offer mobile websites and apps, and how well they use social media and whether incentive programs help motivate patients to adopt healthier habits. The company also examined how insurers use SMS and live chat to provide customer service.

Scores were based on 50 metrics that measure how well insurers meet consumer needs for accessibility, motivation, community activism and overall satisfaction. Topping the rankings was New York-based Capital District Physicians' Health Plan, with a score of 73.8. In second place was Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona with a score of 73. Independence Blue Cross in the Philadelphia area took third place with a score of 71.9.

"I wouldn't say anybody is knocking it out of the park on an absolute basis relative to other industries," Russell Benaroya, EveryMove's CEO, told eWeek. He said that health insurers have further to go in using mobile tools and social media to develop a community with consumers.

Benaroya said the goal of the EveryMove 100 Health Insurance Index, released Aug. 27, was to create transparency and trigger a conversation between consumers and health insurers on how they're using technology. 

"We believe that by creating some transparency around who is doing what and who is doing things well, we can start to push the conversation and hopefully be a catalyst for action," he said, arguing that health plans have a "long way to go around using these technologies to actively engage that population."

While the future success of the mobile healthcare industry hinges primarily on adoption and acceptance of technology among providers and consumers, the role of payers is growing increasingly important, as well. With that in mind, insurance companies need to approach diving into mHealth very carefully, according to Paul Nutting, divisional vice president of customer experience with Chicago-based Health Care Service Corporation, and Anoop Bhogal, director, information services and relationship management at Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross. 

Nutting and Bhogal talked about how their respective companies meticulously evaluated the consumer landscape prior to their initial mobile ventures in a recent FierceHealthPayer webinar, "Establishing a mobile strategy for your health plan."

To learn more:
- read the article in eWeek