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Aetna stands out among health insurers in weak app space: study

Aetna is the lone standout among health insurers who are missing an opportunity to leverage mobile applications to link financial rewards through incentive schemes to healthy, cost-saving behavior, according to a report from research2guidance.

Despite being well-positioned to realize the potential of app integrated incentive schemes, only a few insurers link healthy behavior to financial rewards via an app, according to the study, ?Health Insurance App Benchmarking 2015: How health insurance companies make use of mobile apps.? The report?s critical take on insurers? usage of apps comes as healthcare providers try to use mobile in different ways, from mobile Web sites to collaborative initiatives, to reach consumers and provide critical information on an up-to-date platform.

?Healthcare insurance apps are failing to gain traction because the intentions behind them are misguided,? said Bill Aurnhammer, CEO and founder of Aurnhammer, New York. ?People would want to use a medical app as a utility, book doctor appointments and refill prescription.  

?Insurance apps should be heavily focused on expediting customer service,? he said.  

In another marketing failing, health insurers generally do not successfully cross-promote their app portfolio. Their lack of effectiveness in this regard contrasts with successful mobile-health app publishers who cross-promote through providing more app screens, pop-ups and push notifications.

Standing out among health insurers in apps.

Most health insurers have failed to generate significant reach with their app portfolio, with 67 percent of health insurance companies having achieved less than 100,000 downloads, according to the study.
Aetna, the Hartford, CT managed healthcare company, stands out as the sole exception, having published 28 apps across both iOS and Android with more than 14million downloads, significantly more than any other health insurer. 

Yet 85 percent of Aetna?s downloads came from just one app, iTriage. 

Such a statistic is not uncommon among high-impact health insurers. Seven of the top 10 biggest health insurance companies? app portfolios generate more than 50 percent of downloads from the top performing app, according to the study.

Meanwhile, seven out of 10 health insurers are hesitant publishers, with just one or two apps. Publishing more apps, however, would not necessarily generate higher download numbers.
Seventy-seven percent of health insurers are low-impact publishers, with less than average download numbers. Just nine percent could be described as active with above average impact.
Health insurers? apps in most cases lack state-of-the art features, the study said, citing the absence of tracking and coaching tools, automated input, remote consultation, secure use of mobile-health data, integration with the information technology healthcare infrastructure and eye-catching design and usability.

The findings underscore the challenges that health insurers, like brands in other verticals, face in keeping up with mobile savvy consumers.

In July, United Healthcare extended its app Health4Me to all consumers following months of limited access for insured customers.

The app offered new features such as the ability to search for nearby urgent care facilities and tools for budgeting medical expenses.

Aetna, two years ago, launched a new mobile application enabling international customers living outside the United States to easily file a claim by using the camera on their smartphones to take a picture of their documents.

The research2guidance study?s ultimate message is that health insurers should strive to understand the value of mobile-health apps to their core business and concentrate on apps that deliver the highest value. 

?They should concentrate on app categories that help to directly reduce healthcare costs and don't publish educational apps, games and weather apps,? said Ralf-Gordon Jahns, managing director of research2guidance in Berlin.

Marketers also should take advantage of their unique ability to link app usage and behavior change to financial benefits. 

?There is no other group in the app market that could do it,? Mr. Jahns said. ?At the moment health insurance companies are missing out on this unique opportunity.? 

Wearables? impact
The extent of the missed opportunity for health insurance marketers grows as wearable health and fitness-related technology proliferates.

Focusing on expediting customer service.

?Mobile is going to help people live longer healthier lives,? Mr. Aurnhammer said. ?It will be surprising if insurance marketers miss the opportunity that mobile provides, to engage with their customers, keep them healthier and reduce their overall costs.?

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Marketer, New York