Insurers have stepped into the shallow end of the mobile pool in the past year, launching apps for largely administrative functions, and mainly aimed at patients.
Soon to come, however: Apps created specifically for providers.
A host of payers like United Healthcare and HealthNet already provide mobile access to coverage and benefits information, physician directories, health savings account balance totals and even out-of-pocket drug cost data, according to a report by amednews.
Some, like, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida and OptumHealth, have added a few fitness/wellness components too, like allergy and weather alerts for members, and gaming-based social media apps for fitness challenges. Even smaller self-insured plans, like the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health Plan, offer mobile apps for patients to look up physicians and find hospital locations.
On the horizon, though, payers are looking to build apps to allow network physicians to communicate via smartphone with patients, send secure messages to other providers and possibly even receive alerts to "gaps in care," such as a patient missing her mammogram. BCBS of Florida may offer an option for remote patient monitoring, with data sent automatically to physicians, strategic development director Adriana Murillo tells amednews.
One powerful driver behind insurers' enthusiasm is the exponential growth of physician smartphone use. Recent studies show physician adoption of smartphones at close to 80 percent, and tablets at 25 percent and rising.
"Physicians are really high utilizers of smartphones," Julie Kling, mobile executive business exec at Humana tells amednews. "We really want to make sure we provide an enhanced patient-physician ecosystem, make that a great experience."