Though the several emerging mobile platforms of a few years ago have largely dwindled down to two dominant ones — Google's Android and Apple's iOS — insurers are looking for ways to make sure they can interact with their policyholders no matter what system or handset they use.
Some carriers have explored eschewing the app model altogether, instead focusing on building the best mobile web site possible, because all smartphones include a browser. And recently, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina launched a new mobile web site with updated functionality, essentially rendering its existing app obsolete, says Matthew Penwell, director of the health insurer's web office.
"We started with a native app we called HelpNav, which really was focused more on providing access to urgent care centers and contacting us," he says. "We have a much more comprehensive suite of services, like health benefit and claim information on the mobile site."
The company decided to revamp its mobile site after analyzing the amount of traffic hitting its PC site from smartphones, Penwell adds. But it doesn't plan to stop there. BCBCNC developed its mobile site on a platform from Kony Solutions, which allows companies to develop an application or mobile site in a single development language, which is then mapped to seven mobile platforms, including iOS and Android, as well as HTML 4 and HTML 5 for mobile web.
So the company will be able to translate its new capabilities into applications as well as a mobile site, but without having to devote more resources to development.
"It helps that we're not having to develop things in the app world and the mobile web world," Penwell explains. "We're tapping into the same exact security protocols that exist through our website as well — that was one of the barriers to getting out there quickly with HelpNav.
Aaron Kaufman, VP and GM for healthcare and life science solutions at Kony, says that his company has "more than 250" developers working on upgrades to its back-end platform so that companies that use it will be able to adapt quickly to mobile operating system upgrades and still have functional apps.
"The biggest mobile stumbling block is being able to deploy in time to market across all platforms, or the operational nightmare when a new version of an OS comes out," Kaufman says. "There has to be something out there for people that don't have Silicon Valley-type developers."