Humana innovation lab bolsters payer's tech portfolio

Louisville, Kentucky-based insurer Humana is taking cues from Silicon Valley with a mobile-app lab focused on encouraging members to adopt healthier lifestyles, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Its Digital Experience Center employs agile software development, aimed at speeding up slow release cycles with frequent updates backed by customer feedback, for tools such as HumanaVitality. It lets people challenge themselves and others in pursuit of their personal health goals.

HumanaVitality, which has been downloaded more than 135,000 times since its release last June, has been updated about a dozen times.

The lab has 11 full-time interface designers and engineers on site and four who work remotely. Employes pair up to share workstations--known as paired programming--to ensure everyone is familiar with the code the team produces.

Humana hopes to infuse this "learning and teaching culture" throughout the entire company and rotates employees from headquarters through the lab.

"How do you know you are solving the right problem?" one visitor asked recently. "I think the users are going to tell you," Antonio Melo, practice director at Humana and a full timer at the DEC, answered, according to the article.

Boston Children's Hospital created an app that works as a patient portal to help parents better manage their children's care. Parents told the hospital that the web application wasn't satisfactory on their phones, so it built a mobile version.

"By the time we put out one version, they were already telling us what they wanted updated in the next version. If you're not doing agile development, I don't think you can get there," Stephanie Altavilla, program manager for clinical informatics, told attendees at the mHealth Summit.

Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey opened an "app bar," patterned after the Genius Bar in Apple stores, where patients, visitors and community members can learn about mHealth tools available to them.

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