How to Choose Apps That Improve Member Health and Cut Costs
Dec 15, 2022 10:00:00 AM
The average American spends about five hours per day on his or her smartphone. That may sound discouraging, but what if I told you it can also mean good news for health insurance providers who want to improve the health of their members and reduce medical spending in the process?
High-mileage smartphone users are exactly the segment of your members most willing to engage with digital health apps, and that can open doors to accessible and affordable care options. Fortunately, you don’t need to start from scratch by creating and maintaining your own solutions. It’s more cost effective to first look at what’s already in the market and develop partnerships that fit well with your goals.
With that in mind, here are three digital health categories worth the investment, and some tips on how to choose the best platform in each to suit your needs.
- Telemedicine tools – As we learned during the pandemic, many non-emergency medical problems can be addressed using telemedicine, and health-tech companies have responded by developing smartphone tools that connect patients with the right online practitioners for their needs.
Not only do these apps afford your members quick access to licensed practitioners – sometimes within minutes – but they can receive that care in the comfort of their own home. These apps also can save insurers money since telemedicine visits typically cost one-third to one-half of an office visit.
Choosing the right one: Look for an app willing to accept your insurance and direct members to telehealth practitioners within your network.
- Health coaching platforms – Offering your members tools to establish and practice healthy habits related to nutrition, exercise and wellness helps reduce risks for costly chronic diseases. When you consider that more than 1 in 3 Americans and 1 in 5 Canadians have prediabetes and 74% of Americans and 63% of Canadians are overweight, putting them at higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems, you can see the need to provide accessible and engaging tools that work to reverse these trends.
Prevention translates to sizable cost savings for both patients and providers. For example, people with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of $9,600 per year related to the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. That means preventing the disease in just 500 of your members would amount to nearly $5 million per year in savings!
Health coaching apps not only offer helpful information on disease-preventing lifestyle change, they support those changes through real-life coaches who can help your members set achievable goals and work toward them, one day at a time, providing accountability and encouragement. Yes Health’s platform, for instance, offers a team of nutrition, fitness and wellness experts, supported by AI technology, who check in regularly with members on their goals. Members can also reach out whenever they want feedback on a meal or workout, have a question or need in-the-moment support. Yes Health has specific programs geared toward Diabetes Prevention and Healthy Weight, as well as a broader Concierge Health program.
Choosing the right one: The most effective health coaching platforms engage members through a combination of on-demand support (not just once-a-week appointments) and a flexible, non-judgmental approach. The point is to start with the foods and activities your members already enjoy, and gradually modify them so members will stick with the program long enough to reach their goals.
- Home health-monitoring apps – Mobile technology meets medical monitoring in a number of emerging solutions that allow your members to track certain health markers right from their digital devices. Apps are now readily available that measure blood pressure, take an EKG, track glucose levels and more. Even better, some of these apps allow patients to send the results to their doctors so both parties can watch for trends in the data.
When you equip a member who has health risks with the appropriate technology to monitor a related health marker, you offer that member the opportunity to catch problems early and take preventive measures immediately – or, if necessary, to reach out to a doctor before the situation becomes serious. That, in turn, can save health insurance providers significant costs through fewer ER visits and hospitalizations.
Choosing the right ones: Look for only FDA-approved products to make sure they are legitimate and have been tested and proven reliable.
Adding Smartphone Tools to the Toolbox
No digital health solution will fix every member’s health challenges, which is why providing a variety of tools in your member-benefits toolbox is critical – especially smartphone-enabled technologies that meet your members where they are. To make your selections, narrow down the list using the tips above and then insist on a demo to see and interact with the products yourself. Next, look for a company willing to partner with you, meaning they work hard to understand your needs and address them to the best of their product’s capabilities.
The best apps will be intuitive, responsive and easy-to-use so your members will stay engaged beyond the initial “shiny new thing” stage. In other words, adherence to the protocol over time is critical to healthy change.
Yes Health achieves high engagement and adherence through in-the-moment coaching by a team of experts. This coaching is augmented by AI so the platform can scale to the size of your membership without losing a personalized approach. Coaches respond quickly with advice, feedback or information as soon as members initiate.
Let us show you how Yes Health works with a free demo. You can also read more about the 3-programs-in-1 platform in our guide, “Yes Health for Health Plans.”