July 23, 2019

Why Anthem is launching an app with mobile pay (and opening it to non-members)

Daily Briefing

    Anthem this month will roll out a new mobile app that will allow consumers—even those who aren't Anthem members—to schedule and pay for care and learn potential diagnoses via a chat with doctors, Anna Wilde Mathews reports for the Wall Street Journal.

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    Anthem's new app

    The app, called CareSpree, incorporates a chat function developed by technology start-up K Health. Through the chat function, patients can enter their symptoms and other health information and receive a list of potential diagnoses.

    Through the app, patients also can text their doctors with follow-up questions, meet with their doctor remotely via video, and schedule and pay for in-person medical visits.  

    Rajeev Ronanki, Anthem's chief digital officer, said the company intends to "expand access to care and help with navigation … for all consumers, not just Anthem members."

    Anthem members and non-members will be able to access the same features. However, Anthem members will have access to customized version that they access through other Anthem digital offerings rather than a standalone app, according to Ronanki. In addition, non-Anthem members will have to pay a fee for the video visits as well as for texting with doctors, Wilde Mathews reports.

    Anthem also plans to launch a digital personal health record for members later this year, Wilde Mathews reports.

    Anthem will begin testing the app in Indiana the last week of July before expanding the rollout across all 14 states in its geographic territory, including California, New York, and Virginia, Wilde Mathews reports.

    The health care convenience trend

    With the news Anthem joins a group of big industry players—including UnitedHealth GroupCVS Health, Humana, and Cigna—that are releasing apps and other digital tools aimed at making health care more convenient for consumers, Wilde Mathews reports.

    (The Daily Briefing is published by Advisory Board, a division of Optum, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group.)

    The goal for insurers, Wilde Mathews reports, is to save money through the digital services by detecting and addressing health problems that would eventually land patients in the ED. The digital tools can also direct patients to lower-cost services, including pharmacies, imaging centers, and specialists.

    For instance, Humana this year through a partnership with telemedicine company Doctor on Demand started testing a digital-first plan that connects patients with primary-care doctors for regular video visits, and boasts lower premiums than competing plans, according to Humana.

    Wilde Mathews also reports that UnitedHealth is developing a surgery-recovery app called Recover that it plans to launch in 25 markets at the start of 2020. The app is designed to connect patients to services related to their surgery and facilitates text messaging between patients and their doctors. After surgery, patients can upload pictures of their surgical site using the app, which automatically alerts the doctor's office if it detects any issues with the surgical site. 

    Through a test with hip and knee replacements, UnitedHealth found the app reduced costs by about 11% and correlated with reduced hospital readmissions.

    However, Anthem is taking a unique approach opening its new app up to non-members, Wilde Mathews reports. According to Robert Kocher, a partner at Venrock, making the app available to patients who do not have coverage will allow "people to try before they buy," which could potentially help Anthem land new enrollees (Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 7/22).

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