The smart way: Why brokers should advocate health plans that feature mobile technology appsArticle added by Robert Oscar, R.Ph. on June 11, 2013
Robert Oscar

Robert Oscar, R.Ph.

Richmond, VA

Joined: May 31, 2013

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At a time when 48 percent of small businesses say health care reform is bad for business, a thoughtful and engaging mobile-access and mobile-platform technology strategy can streamline health care administration, reduce staff and facilitate health behavior change by connecting employees to convenient, cost-effective health care.

Health reform mandates are putting the squeeze on employers, prompting them to search for new strategies that will engage their employees to improve their health, improve compliance and help curb costs. Smartphone technology has emerged as a revolutionary way to enable patients to gain the greatest possible benefit from their health care services. Brokers who recommend and implement health plan benefits for their clients that offer a robust mobile technology platform can give them a competitive advantage in benefits consulting, especially when the market for group health insurance is rapidly changing.

Health care at their fingertips

Experts predict that health care and medical app downloads will reach 142 million by 2016.1 In order to leverage this staggering trend, a growing number of insurers have developed mobile-friendly versions of their websites. This enables members to access critical information when they're engaging in healthcare — when it’s most important to them.

Whether reaching members in a physician's office or grocery store, insurers are devising practical, intelligent ways to meet their members' mobile needs. This level of dynamic thinking has become critical in today’s health care environment — and what employers need in order to meet the growing burden of providing health coverage. Toward this end, brokers should look for health plans that allow members to:
  • Log onto the mobile site to view claims
  • View benefit information and determine approximate treatment costs
  • Find a physician
  • Locate an urgent care center
  • Schedule a doctor’s appointment
  • Fill a prescription
Health apps can be geared toward the unique health challenges of a particular population and designed to improve member wellness, diet and exercise habits via actionable alerts. They can also play an important role in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease, such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension, which cost U.S. employers billions of dollars each year.2

In addition, apps can serve as decision-support tools for health care providers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), allowing them to quickly suggest additional prescription drug purchasing channels, such as mail order and retail discount options.
What to look for in a mobile technology platform

While a mobile technology platform can be adapted for each company's needs, health care apps should offer plan members easy access to essential medical and pharmacy benefit–related information, including:
  • In-network provider directories
  • Pharmacy and medical benefit summaries and claims history
  • Drug formularies and drug prior authorization status
  • Deductible summaries and cost-sharing requirements
  • Drug prices of nearby pharmacies and expected out-of-pocket costs with generic and therapeutic alternatives
  • Self-diagnosis tools with symptom and disease search features
  • Daily wellness tracking tools for achieving health-related goals
  • Health-related symptom checkers
  • Reminders and alerts for prescription drug compliance
  • Options for in-home monitoring and in-home care
Some mobile technology platforms offer personal drug utilization information for each covered employee and his or her dependents, including specific money-saving suggestions for better pharmacy benefit use. They also offer patients a number of features, including:
  • Record immunizations and health screenings, and those recommended based on the individual’s profile
  • Track health and wellness, including weight, HgA1c, headache log, blood pressure, cholesterol and more (the date and time selector supports multiple tracker measurements per day)
  • Create a list of questions to ask the doctor
With this wealth of information, employers can empower employees to make better-informed choices that can increase prescription drug adherence, reduce costs associated with emergency care, and improve the overall quality of health care. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that each member is using the appropriate medication in a timely and efficient way.

Once an effective mobile strategy is in place, employees can take greater control of their own health and work more closely with their in-network health care providers. This is especially true for those who are incentivized by the possibility of saving money and reducing out-of-pocket health care expenses.

At a time when 48 percent of small businesses say health care reform is bad for business,3 a thoughtful and engaging mobile-access and mobile-platform technology strategy can streamline health care administration, reduce staff and facilitate health behavior change by connecting employees to convenient, cost-effective health care.

1Dolan, Pamela Lewis; Patients Expected to Use Smartphones for Health Monitoring; American Medical News; February 20, 2012. http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/02/20/bisb0220.htm accessed October 31, 2012.

2Avalere Health; Chronic Diseases Cost Employers Billions Annually; October 29, 2007; http://www.avalerehealth.net/wm/show.php accessed May 15, 2013.

3Davis, Andrea; ACA Bad Business Say Small Employers; Employee Benefit News; May 14, 2013; http://ebn.benefitnews.com/news/aca-bad-business-say-small-employers accessed May 15, 2013.
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