Go mobile to grab young adults' attention


All the kids are doing it these days, and WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish knows it. What am I talking about? The constant use of smartphones.

To capture young consumers' attention, Swedish is positioning one of the largest insurance companies to cater to their mobile-savvy ways, letting them access all kinds of healthcare services through their smartphones.

"We really have to pivot and adapt to the demands of the consumer," Swedish told the Associated Press in an interview.

WellPoint is leading the charge among insurers to a more mobile technology friendly company. It covers visits to workplace health kiosks that allow employees to speak live with a doctor and get a diagnosis without leaving their office, for example. It is also using data mining tools to determine whether patients fill prescriptions and if they need follow-up care reminders.

By covering these new services, WellPoint aims to cater to younger consumers who have spent most or all of their lives with smartphones in their pockets. Swedish even envisions a time when WellPoint members won't have to physically visit a doctor's office to seek care but will use telemedicine services instead.

And WellPoint isn't the only insurer moving in this direction. UnitedHealth launched a telemedicine pilot with 310,000 members in Nevada and Cigna offers virtual visits to self-insured employers for about 1 million members.

Perhaps even more surprising, the American Medical Association said there are "significant benefits" to telemedicine when it adopted a policy calling for certain criteria to be in place when virtual consults are allowed.

All of this movement signifies how the health insurance industry is in the midst of "cataclysmic change," and insurers that fail to adapt won't be in business in 10 years, Medica's Vice President of Business Architecture & Strategy Kimberly Branson told FierceHealthPayer in an interview. This change is largely being driven by consumers, who expect personalized communications as well as consistent, multichannel interactions from their insurance companies.

But like all changes, insurers must maintain an eyes-wide-open approach. For example, they should incorporate a digital engagement strategy throughout their entire organization rather than keeping it siloed within the IT or customer service departments. They also should establish well-defined strategies around mobile marketing, sales and service.

And they should work to include key services in their mobile technologies as well. Applications that help members find the nearest in-network specialist, set medication reminders and alert members to gaps in meeting activity goals are likely to be the most popular among consumers. What's more, they could consider creating diet, exercise and wellness apps, which have become wildly popular with customers.

If accommodating the demands of the new consumers, especially tech-savvy young adults, doesn't compel insurers to innovate in the health IT field, then perhaps knowing that mobile apps and other technologies can help boost their bottom line will change their minds. Case in point: Aetna is expecting its mobile apps to generate $1.5 billion in revenues next year.  - Dina (@HealthPayer)

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