Martha Wofford, an Aetna VP and head of the CarePass program, told InformationWeek Healthcare that the company will soon allow its members' Aetna personal health records (PHRs) to be integrated with some of the mobile apps. An integration with a medication adherence app will be announced within a few weeks, she said.
"With that kind of an app, you can imagine that instead of the person keying in their medications, they're populating it from their PHR. So the drug, the dosage and all that can pull through and they don't have re-key it."
Similarly, other applications could use data from a member's medical records to inform the use of that app, she said.
[ For more on this topic, see 10 Mobile Health Apps From Uncle Sam. ]
CarePass also allows people who download multiple apps to authorize Aetna to display data from those apps in a single dashboard, rather than having to view the data in silos.
"You can have a fitness profile that normalizes the data so it gets all the steps and miles and time duration. And the same with nutrition: you can use multiple different apps to track your caloric intake and so on."
Here's how it works: Data from a consumer's downloaded apps is pulled into CarePass' daily tracker, which normalizes the information based on a lowest common denominator, such as steps or miles for fitness apps. The data is displayed on the dashboard along with progress toward the user's personal goals, such as running a particular distance or fitting into a favorite pair of jeans.
The fitness and wellness apps that Aetna picked for CarePass include iTriage, an Aetna subsidiary that helps consumers choose providers, MapMyFitness, Jawbone, Fitbit, Withings, BodyMedia and Zipongo, which combines healthy shopping lists with local food store coupons. Altogether, the apps on CarePass have had over 100 million downloads, according to Aetna.
Access to CarePass is free, and most of the apps are also free, although vendors may charge a fee for premium access, said Wofford.
Overall, Aetna developed CarePass to "make access to healthcare information work better for consumers," she said. "We're trying to make it more connected and convenient and pull all the data together into one place."
The company is offering the service to non-members for a few reasons, she added. First, consumers are making more individual decisions about their health coverage. "So we believe it's important to be consumer preferred in the future. Part of this is an effort for consumers to see Aetna as a company that's providing convenience and making it easier for them to access care and their data."
In addition, she noted, Aetna wants to ensure that members retain their personal health data if they move to another health plan, perhaps because they switch jobs. And a "higher-purpose effort," she said, is to help control the diabetes and obesity epidemics that plague U.S. healthcare.
For the past several years, Aetna has been acquiring health IT-related companies, including iTriage, Medicity and ActiveHealth Management. CarePass is an extension of that strategy. "Real change is happening in healthcare, and we view ourselves as more of a health solutions and technology company, rather than just an insurer," explained Wofford. "So we're explicitly moving into that [health IT] space."
Many other insurers are doing the same, most notably by embracing telemedicine. Pennsylvania-based Highmark, which launched a teledermatology program a few months ago, recently revealed plans for new initiatives involving sleep medicine and aging in place. Blue Shield of California uses "gamified" wellness apps to increase member engagement. And a number of plans -- including Aetna, CareFirst, Humana, Anthem and United Healthcare -- enable members to download mobile apps that provide benefits information. CareFirst's app also has a pedometer and a symptom checker.
Alex Kane Rudansky provided assistance in researching this story.