Anthem launching new app offering personalized health information, texting with doctors

Anthem headquarters
K Health's app enables users to see how doctors have diagnosed and treated other patients experiencing similar symptoms. (Anthem)

Health insurer Anthem plans to launch a new mobile app that will enable its 40 million members to get quicker access to personalized health information and treatment options.

Through the app, members also will be able to text with a doctor at a lower cost than visiting a physician's office.

The app incorporates technology from digital health company K Health. The New York-based startup developed a chat function that uses artificial intelligence to suggest potential diagnoses for consumers who enter symptoms and also takes into account the users' medical history, age, and gender. The app will enable Anthem members to see how doctors have diagnosed and treated other patients experiencing similar symptoms.

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The health information is provided at no cost. Patients can then connect with a doctor via text for follow-up advice for less than the cost of a copay, according to the companies. 

Anthem's app, called CareSpree, will roll out this month in Indiana before expanding to other states in Anthem’s territory, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

screen shot of K Health symptom checker app
A view of the app. (K Health)

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Anthem and K Health said they believe providing members with the digital service will help to reduce healthcare costs and address major gaps in the healthcare and the primary care landscape.

The platform gives consumers access to personalized healthcare at a fraction of the cost of existing alternatives, Allon Bloch, CEO and co-founder of K Health, told Fierce Healthcare.

"We developed a platform that allows us to use real data from the real world to offer potential diagnosis and treatment options and that costs less than a primary care visit today," he said.

Anthem's new app is the latest example of insurers using digital health and virtual care to expand members' access to care and to rein in healthcare costs. In April Humana announced it was launching a virtual primary care model with telehealth company Doctor on Demand. Called On Hand, the Humana plan gives patients access to a dedicated primary care physician as well as access to preventive care, urgent care, and behavioral health through video visits with lower monthly premiums.

Anthem also is investing an undisclosed sum in K Health, which to date has raised more than $50 million. 

K Health launched in the U.S. in July 2018 and now has 1.3 million users, according to the company.

The company built its platform by using anonymized electronic health records of over 2 million patients from Maccabi Health Services in Israel from the past 20 years. That data, which includes 2 billion health events, was used to train artificial intelligence algorithms to recognize symptoms and diagnoses, the company said.

RELATED: Humana, Doctor on Demand launch virtual primary care health plan

K Health also incorporated 400 million doctors' visit notes into the AI platform and used natural language processing to pick up on relevant symptoms, along with their attributes and values like severity and duration. When producing health information for each user, the AI tool accounts for medical history, age, gender, and other biomarkers, the company said.

Consumers can get health information online by searching for specific symptoms but the information is not always reliable or personalized, Bloch said. At the same time, doctor visits can be expensive and inconvenient and often with long wait times. 

K Health is designed to close that gap in primary care by providing consumers with immediate, mobile access to tools that enable them to manage their own care, receive personalized health information, and understand their treatment options, he said.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Anthem’s new app will also tie in other features, including video doctor visits. For services including in-person doctor visits, magnetic-resonance-imaging scans and X-rays, the app will let users schedule appointments and pay a pre-negotiated price through their smartphones. Anthem has cut deals with around 10 health care providers, including some large hospital systems, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The app will tie into their health history and benefits structure, letting members pay out-of-pocket charges via smartphone.

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