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United Healthcare?s Baby Blocks taps mobile to support healthy babies

Health insurance provider United Healthcare?s new mobile program Baby Blocks gives employers the ability to alert pregnant women and new parents of incentives.

Women who enroll in Baby Blocks can earn rewards for completing prenatal, postpartum and healthy baby appointments. Users access interactive Baby Blocks via the free mobile Web app on iPhone and Android smartphones that shows their prenatal visits and opportunities to earn rewards for following a prenatal and postnatal visit schedule.

?Consumers are increasingly using mobile apps for a variety of purposes, including health care,? said Will Shanley, director of public relations at United Healthcare, Orange Co. ?In fact, recent research shows nearly 80 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in mobile health solutions, and 40 percent of physicians believe that mobile health technologies can reduce office visits. 

?We?ve found that most consumers, including Medicaid beneficiaries, are interested in the convenience and ease of use that mobile apps provide,? he said. ?This is especially true for millennials, a group that spends more than 14.5 hours each week texting, talking and accessing social media on their smartphone, which is more than any other generation. 

?United Healthcare will continue to look for new and innovative ways to leverage mobile technology to help people live happier, healthier lives.?

A widening presence 
Baby Blocks enables users to receive email appointment alerts and wellness-related text messages, connect directly with maternity nurses and earn rewards for keeping the appointments. Rewards include gift cards to retail outlets, and items related to maternity, such as teething rings, diaper bags, thermometers and other items.

The program is already helping new mothers and parents with prenatal and postnatal baby care. By providing information, resources and the opportunity to earn incentives, Baby Blocks is aiming to encourage expectant moms and new parents to help their babies have the best possible start in life. 

A similar version of the program has been available in 14 states since 2011 for women and babies eligible for Medicaid. Since then, more than 25,000 women have enrolled in the program.

Baby Blocks has already helped more than 29,000 Medicaid beneficiaries, and a number of employers have already rolled out the commercial version to their employees.

Ongoing strategy
Through its recent efforts, United Healthcare is trying to expand its reach, especially via the mobile channel.

For example, United Healthcare announced this summer that its mobile application Health4Me has been extended to all consumers following months of limited access for customers insured only by United Healthcare. 

The app offers multiple features, such as the ability to search for nearby urgent care facilities and costs of more than 520 medical services, which aims to allow consumers to easily budget for their medical expenses. United Healthcare saw the benefits it was providing to its plan participants and decided to broaden its appeal by making it available to any smartphone user (see story).

The insurance provider launched its first app in 2009.

The purpose of the app was meant to improve consumer access to health care.

The DocGPS application for Apple?s iPhone enabled users to tailor their search to their specific health plan and locate nearby doctors, clinics and hospitals within the UnitedHealthcare network using the GPS functionality of iPhone 3G and 3GS. The application could make searches on 23 types of health care facilities and 58 types of physician specialties (see story).

United Healthcare has expanded its mobile presence over the years. 

?UnitedHealthcare is focused on meeting consumers when and where they want to be reached, and today that means on mobile devices,? Mr. Shanley said. ?We have introduced various mobile apps that help people take charge of their health and navigate the health system more efficiently and effectively.?

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York