Mobile strategies give payers a leg up on competition

Mobile is no longer an option for payers; it's a necessity. Using mobile platforms has become a way of life for most people, whether it's reading articles through a mobile website on their smartphones or playing games on tablets or accessing a store's mobile app to make purchases.

It's these customer habits that have made mobile strategies an absolute core aspect of any company's mission statement. And payers are no exception. But if you're not yet on board with the value of mobile, consider this--Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina saw growth of more than 440 percent in one year in website traffic from tablets and a 105 percent increase in smartphone hits.

It's those kind of numbers that leads Nick Martin, vice president of innovation and R&D at United Health Group, to believe offering some sort of mobile option to consumers is necessary for payers to survive in an already competitive market. "The number of connected devices is skyrocketing as we speak," he told FierceHealthPayer for its latest free eBook, Payers and mHealth: Best Practices for the Move to Mobile. "There's a missed opportunity if you don't look at those people who use these devices and carry them every single day."

But before payers jump head first into investing considerable time and resources on any mobile approach, they must assess several aspects to ensure success. What services and data do your customers want? How can you distinguish your mobile offerings from your competitors?

When BCBSNC was developing its mobile website, the insurer "really looked at [identifying] the information our customers would most likely need in a provider setting or if they're looking to select BCBSNC as a potential insurer," says Matthew Penwell, director of BCBSNC's web office.

BCBSNC chose which features to offer on its mobile site, including access to claims and benefits, a cost estimator tool and physician locator, based on website use statistics and commonly asked questions to customer service.

Mobile apps are another way payers can engage current and prospective members. Kaiser Permanente, for example, developed an app for both Apple and Android platforms to let members access their personal health record, email physicians, schedule appointments, refill prescriptions and locate Kaiser Permanente facilities. The app adds "a lot of convenience to people's lives," says Christine Paige, Kaiser's senior vice president of marketing and Internet services.

What's more, apps and mobile websites help keep consumers healthy, which is always a welcomed goal for payers. "We have plenty of data from our online experience that shows that people who engage with us in a digital platform are healthier," Paige says.

Want to learn more about Kaiser's app or how Aetna has improved an already popular app to enhance its usability and appeal to consumers? To read about these and other successful mobile strategies, including the types of information you shouldn't provide on a mobile device and tips to safeguard members' private data, check out our free eBook. - Dina (@HealthPayer)

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