In recent years the lines between consumer and enterprise technology have blurred to the point of elimination. The "smartphone effect" has meant that everyone - from customers to partners to employees - demands access to information anytime, anywhere, on any device. The rise in global mobility has intensified this, making accessing information via a range of devices a must-have rather than the latest want. In response, IT departments, indeed entire organizations, now see technology not as a set of tools but as opportunities to connect with their customers. How well companies craft their mobile device strategy can define how well their business will thrive in the future. Companies can't rely on just their websites and call centers anymore. Consumers expect everything to be available instantly from their smartphones and tablets.
In my years at Aetna, the third-largest health care benefits company in the United States, I have seen an amazing revolution in the growth of mobile technology to empower people to be in control of their health and their health information. People are tapping into their mobile devices to manage all their health care needs just as many of us now do with our banking or financial accounts. Consumers are demanding it and the health care industry must meet that demand.
Fortunately, Aetna's CEO recognized years ago that healthcare was changing and made technology a strategic priority, so we were ready for the changes in the industry. Insurance is always at risk of becoming a commodity where people simply choose a provider on price. Healthcare should, and can be, so much more than that. Aetna and Aetna International strive to be known for providing a proactive, personal and collaborative service. Adopting a strategy where technology is at the heart of what we do has led us to provide greater service and deliver extra capabilities.
For example, as part of a strategy to significantly alter the way health care is delivered and paid for, Aetna acquired iTriage in 2011. iTriage is healthcare's leading mobile platform empowering people to make better healthcare decisions and improve healthcare delivery. The app allows users to look up their symptoms for possible causes and research treatment options. In the U.S. the app provides a Symptom-to-Provider pathway, connecting patients who are actively looking for healthcare with providers who have the capability and capacity to deliver that care. Users can even book appointments with these doctors directly within iTriage. More than 10 million consumers have downloaded the app so far.
Expanding on iTriage, Aetna introduced the CarePass platform several years ago. Our CarePass mobile app and web site integrates data from personal health records and many popular mobile fitness and wellness apps to help consumers achieve health goals. These tools help consumers better navigate and understand the healthcare system, have a better patient experience and ultimately stick with Aetna.
At Aetna International, we have more than 500,000 members living in nearly every country around the world. These busy professionals rely on their mobile devices and don't want to be tethered to their laptops to get the health care benefits information they need. In the past few years we have introduced provider directory apps that let our members find all the hospitals, clinics and doctors in our network – more than 100,000 providers around the globe. We also have an app that allows our members to use their smartphone to file claims and check the status of their claims.
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Of course, keeping up with customer demands, evolving technology and providing speedy service on a global scale does not come without challenges. Being in a remote location does not alter the expectation of information access. The nature of our business means that we cannot be hindered by connectivity – despite many destinations having inconsistent connectivity. People need to find healthcare wherever they are and speed and accuracy are critical. Working around challenges like this and ensuring our customers get the service they need no matter where they are is a key part of my job.
Another challenge for an established business is reconciling legacy with new applications. Our old systems were not built to deal with social media, crowd sourcing and delivering information across many devices. Not all businesses are able to adapt easily to new systems, processes and mind sets. Being a self-confessed tech-head really helps: I have the same expectations as our customers. I am immersed in the user experience of our products and services. I also love to try out new technology: I use a selection of health and fitness apps and develop mobile apps with my 13-year-old son as a hobby.
A device that I am currently really excited about is the Scanadu Scout, which is not on general release yet. It reads your vital signs - heart rate, temperature, pulse and blood oxygenation and provides an instant diagnosis - very much like the Star Trek Tricorder! It then sends this information to an app on your iPhone or Android.
The possibilities brought by this new generation of technology are endless and what I love is that we are not limited within our own organization: All sorts of people, individuals as well as businesses, are developing applications and devices because they identify a need or usefulness. We can tap into them and aggregate the information in order for our customers to take advantage. Adopting the technologies and applications that our customers want to use has enabled us to take a start quick approach – being much more nimble and responsive to demands from customers and opportunities in the market.
Never has it been more true to say that a business is nothing without its customers. Now the customer is at the helm of the business and any organization that ignores that fact is going to stumble.
About the author: Rick Jeandell is CTO of Aetna International.