Insurers Lag in Providing Member-Friendly Mobile Apps

One of the reasons may be that health plans primarily have access to retrospective information rather than real-time information, unlike providers, and they also have to consider other factors such as a member's health indicators, plan, deductible, and family structure.

While most health insurers have made little effort to embrace the mobile application market, a few such as UnitedHealth Group and Independence Blue Cross are actively researching ways to solve the problem of being the “last to know” in the real-time information game of mobile technology.

A quick scan of available health insurance apps on the iTunes store tells a sad story: Almost all have 1-star ratings, with users ranting that even the most basic functions, like log-ins and searches, fail to operate properly. Even more common are apps without any user reviews at all, suggesting a lackluster level of consumer engagement.

“Health plans are at a structural disadvantage to providers because they have almost exclusively retrospective information,” says Brad Ryan, MD, chief commerce officer for health technology exchange Apervita. “They almost never have information on a specific member that is completely up-to-date because they are primarily basing all of their support tools on administrative data that only comes in after an event, and then it gets adjudicated, cleaned up and processed. So there’s typically—best case scenario—about a 3-month lag on the information that a health plan has available to them.”

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