Payer apps: An epic fail

There is a startling, and greatly disappointing, research report out regarding healthcare insurance companies and mobile app development.

In a simple summary, this how the report describes such efforts: Epic fail.

If this were 2010, or even 2012, the report's insight on how a majority of insurance companies are behind the eight ball in mHealth app building and success stories might not be so surprising. But it's 2015. Smartphone ownership has become the norm in the U.S. Using apps to play games, make bank transactions, reserve taxi services, find a restaurant--these are all common practices today.

To that end, as we've reported previously, most consumers are eager for mHealth apps and systems and tools, whether to be proactive on avoiding health challenges or to enhance ongoing treatment and care of everything from weight loss to chronic conditions.

So what are payers thinking? Why are they failing to capitalize, to drive new inroads, to be leaders when mobile tools seemingly pose a clear benefit to them as a business?

The report, published by research2guidance, clearly outlines reasons why insurance companies are failing with mobile. For one thing, they're hesitant to jump into mHealth. At this point, they need to push pass such fears.

A second reason is not leveraging assets. This, to me, is more a reflection on a lack of leadership within payers regarding mobile development, overall. If they're not making good mHealth apps, they're likely not even providing a good mobile experience for subscribers in areas such as mobile payment.

What's more, the report's authors state, not all payer apps comply with regulatory or industry requirements. No nastiness intended, but this is just laziness; compliance is something every healthcare industry player has long dealt with.

Payers also aren't engaging in valuable cross-promotional strategies--meaning they're not promoting such apps in every place possible. I can't imagine why they aren't doing this. Consumers are more than willing to use mobile technology, but they also want something in return--good support, potential rewards, maybe even a plan discount. All of those are viable and legitimate expectations.

I find it mind boggling that insurance companies have not made better and deeper inroads with mobile technology. As the Aetna example in the report illustrates, it can be done. It's truly time for them to step it up. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)