Aetna Relaunches iTriage, Blue Cross Unveils Mobile Health Site
Aetna has launched a new version of its iTriage mobile application, the first software program on its new open-data platform called CarePass.
CarePass allows patients to share data across multiple applications, and by June it will enable developers to create mobile health tools for the platform. Aetna plans to add more apps to CarePass later this year.
The platform will be open to any insurance carrier or consumer to use, and data will be available to third parties as well, Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini said at a March 5 New York launch event for iTriage. In June, Aetna plans to launch a health care IT app store with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Aetna will also integrate open data from HHS into its CarePass platform so developers can use the data to create mobile health tools, said Todd Park, chief technology officer at HHS. (Park was just named by the Obama administration to succeed Aneesh Chopra as the nation's chief technology officer.)
HHS' meaningful-use incentive program for electronic health records provides guidance on data-transfer standards and making data more interoperable, Park told eWEEK at the Aetna event. HHS is working to convert hospital-quality data into accessible and machine-readable APIs, he said.
"What we're trying to do is make it easier for third-party developers to use," said Park.
On Dec. 15, Aetna announced that it acquired Healthagen, the developer of iTriage. The carrier will demonstrate the new features of iTriage at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, from March 12-15.
Using iTriage, consumers can use an iPhone or Android device to research symptoms, search for medical providers and schedule appointments with doctors who match specific criteria the patients set. The new version provides more specific criteria for finding providers, including searching by gender and language spoken, as well as providers' years of experience. The enhanced app also includes patient reviews and a medical news feed.
Other additions include pricing information for prescriptions and estimated cost of care. iTriage also offers reminders for medication refills and appointments. Using iTriage, patients can access their personal health records, which are stored in Microsoft HealthVault.
With health data stored in many different systems, the health care system could benefit from a central platform to access data, suggested Alan Webber, principal analyst at research firm Altimeter Group. A central platform like CarePass could help simplify data access for consumers.
For its March 5 report, "The Coming Digital Revolution in Health Care" (commissioned by Aetna), Altimeter and Definitive Insights interviewed 1,000 consumers to study the demand for tools to help consumers manage their medical data. In the survey, 78 percent of respondents said that keeping their health care and medical records organized is important to them.
Currently, 5 million consumers in more than 80 countries have downloaded iTriage, Aetna reported.
Meanwhile, on March Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC] announced a new mobile health site that will allow patients to view medical claims, see benefit plan information and find doctors and urgent-care centers using GPS. The site allows allows patients to research less-expensive medications.
Mobile platform provider Kony Solutions developed and deployed the mobile site for BCBSNC. Blue Cross also offers the app Blue Finder in the Google Android and Apple iOS app stores to help patients find doctors or urgent-care centers. BCBSNC's HealthNav app, available in the iOS and Android app stores, offers a similar capability to search for medical facilities while allowing patients to research medications and and store notes about their health. BCBSNC plans to release an update of HealthNav within a few months.
Customers can access their account information on the mobile Website without downloading an app, said Matthew Penwell, director of the Web office for BCBSNC.
"Using a mobile Web browser allows us to reach more of our customers and provides them with easy access to the information they need on the go," Penwell wrote in an email to eWEEK. "By providing the new mobile Website, we are able to give our customers information when and wherever they need it, without having to search for and download an additional app."