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M-health, Mobile Apps from the Payer Perspective

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, January 29, 2013

Tuckson: You asked about a vision for the future, and what really gets me excited. Move the health out of the health ghetto and into your life. I was at a conference in New Orleans where I first got this. I was in my hotel room. I had conference call after conference call. I finally said, I've got to get out.

I go to my smart phone, I put in an app, AroundMe. It tells me which are the coffee shops, or anything, around me. A map comes up that shows me how to get there. I go outside and I walk. I take steps, I go somewhere. I get inside of the coffee shop, and I pull up an app that tells me the nutritional content of what's in the store. I figure out the one that's best for me. I'm getting ready to order. I love the song that's playing. I hold up my phone. There's an app that tells me the name of the song. Then it asks me do I want to buy it? I buy the song, I buy my food, I go back to my hotel.

When I finish my last conference call, I go to the gym to work out. I put on the song I just downloaded. My heart rate goes up 20% more than it was before, because I'm moving to the rhythm. Which part of that was health, and which part of that was living? That's when it hit me. Now I got excited, because instead of my deciding now, I'm going to go do health, no, no, no. I'm just going to go do living. The health happens.

HLM:  I was looking at a feature on UnitedHealth's website called My Cost Estimator. Would you ever consider making that social—so if I'm checking my cost estimator, my friend who is with UnitedHealth and she's checking hers, and we want to compare notes, we could decide to share up what we're estimating and costing out, and have kind of a social aspect to it. Under our control, of course—it's our data, and you're part of that ecosystem. Does that look like something that would be a part of this?

Tuckson: I applaud you for an intriguing idea. I think as we would evaluate that, the issue is that we believe in transparency. We think the information ought to be available for people to make appropriate choices and decisions. We think that people should have information first about the quality of the care that's provided, and one of the key elements of care provider quality is patient experience with care, and the satisfaction they have with care—which is very much a social issue, and as people start to say, 'well, how were you treated when you went to such and such a health group or physician?'

So the fact that you would have that kind of social conversation about it would be interesting. If people were to share and begin to understand the differences in costs based on health benefit design, that would be very useful.

Now, of course, knowing that there will be differences in that, vis-à-vis the employer's benefit plan offering and the risk profile of an employer, that might make it a little bit different—so there may not be that ability to do direct one-to-one comparison—but at the end of the day, having more people have more of an informed conversation on the quality and cost effectiveness of care delivery is certainly something that we desire, so thank you. We'll continue to think about that.


Scott Mace is senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.
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1 comments on "M-health, Mobile Apps from the Payer Perspective"


Mark Ragusa (1/30/2013 at 2:24 PM)
Very good information.... some thoughts. The rapid rate of mobile health adoption reflects the convenience and utility inherent in mobile apps and devices. Health systems have an opportunity to meet patients where they are increasingly turning for health management: mobile devices. This is patient engagement at its most powerful. Engaged patients will increasingly drive a health system's success. Today that means HCAHPS and readmissions. Tomorrow that means population health and ACOs. Smart health systems understand that and are investing in mobile. For others, the window will eventually close and their patients will turn elsewhere for health management. http://axialexchange.com/blog/category/axial-mobile