Mobile health solutions: Follow the payers

If you want to get cynical about it, the healthcare insurance industry has the most to gain from getting--and keeping--Americans healthy. For them, engaging members in their own health isn't just the right thing to do. It's a financial imperative.

And that's one of the reasons that payers are way out in front when it comes to using mobile technologies to help members lose weight, better manage chronic conditions, take prescribed medications as directed and show up for preventive care visits.

FierceHealthPayer's latest eBook, "Payer Strategies for Engaging Members," details a number of tactics payers are employing to keep their members healthy--from using data analytics to improve care management to creating "sticky" online platforms that incorporate social gaming to developing mobile apps that help patients manage their care.

The nature of the mobile platform lends itself to patient engagement opportunities and "has great potential to empower members to become more involved in their care," Christine Paige, senior vice president of marketing and Internet services for the Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, says in one of the eBook articles on using mobile technology to manage risk.

Apps get information to consumers when and where they need it, Rajeev Ronanki, director of healthcare cloud services and technology strategy for Deloitte Healthcare and Life Sciences, tells FierceHealthPayer. "With health knowledge at their fingertips, consumers can more actively manage their healthcare decisions, optimize care usage and change their behavior to become healthier members," he says.

Kaiser and other payer organizations featured in the book have created a host of apps that have proven both popular and effective. And many provider organizations also are emerging as leaders in the mHealth field.

But here's the thing: Payers and a select few providers can't shoulder the burden of America's healthcare problems alone. Under payment reform, keeping Americans healthy is a financial imperative for all providers. Hell, it's a financial imperative for the entire nation.

And, to be just a little less cynical, it really is the right thing to do, too. We've heard the numbers so many times that I wonder if we're starting to tune them out:

  • 53.1 million people are projected to have diabetes by 2025--an increase of 64 percent from 2010
  • 83 percent of men and 72 percent of women are projected to be overweight or obese by 2020

Argue all you want about healthcare reform. But we cannot let these numbers--and the multi-trillion dollar price tag that goes along with them--become the new normal.

I've argued before that mobile apps and other technologies aren't enough to solve the nation's healthcare crisis. But surely they can help.

So, what are you doing to be part of the solution? - Gienna