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Aetna Has an App? Why the Health Care Giant is Taking on Tech

Aetna, one of the biggest and oldest insurance companies in the US, has just released it's first app called CarePass. Their plan? Cut down on healthcare costs by getting customers (and everyone else) in control of their own health and fitness.
Aetna Has an App? Why the Health Care Giant is Taking on Tech
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With tons of web forums, thousands of apps, and a whole lot of misguided information out there, taking charge of our health can be challenging. Now, Aetna, the third largest health insurance provider in the U.S., is making a foray into the health and fitness tech space with a new app called CarePass. Aetna hopes the app will become a universal remote for healthcare, fitness, and wellness.

What It Is

Launching on Tuesday for iOS and Android, CarePass is a multifaceted hub for health data, combining information from some of the most popular health and fitness apps (MapMyFitness, Runkeeper, and iTriage,  to name a few) and fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, BodyMedia, Jawbone UP, and Withings scales. The goal: merge around two dozen of the most successful apps and devices to set achievable goals for a holistic approach to wellness. 

But why should a 100-year-old insurance company care about health and fitness apps? It all comes down to cash, and CarePass is a part of Aetna’s new strategy to reduce healthcare costs. The company hopes that by getting people in the know, CarePass users will also become more knowledgeable of their health and take action to live a healthier life.

There are three main parts to CarePass: Data, Goals, and Prevention. First, users can sync data from their favorite apps and devices to display it on one platform (rather than continually opening and referring to multiple apps). Second, users can choose several real-world health goals (or create their own, for example "I want to eat 40 grams of protein every day"). There are three preset goals, each with a quirky barometer for success:

  • “Run city to city.” Measure your steps relative to a distance between New York and Boston.
  • "Fit into my favorite jeans." Track your weight by watching a belt increase or decrease a notch with each check in.
  • "Kick start to weight loss." A food-tracking visualization that focuses on the 3,500 calorie deficit rule (a person has to cut 3,500 calories to lose one pound).

After entering basic info such as gender, height, weight, and age, users set a daily target, and CarePass provides positive feedback as well as an easy, visually compelling way to achieve a specific goal. Additional goals will be available in the months to come, including ones to improve sleep and stress management.

The third part of CarePass is iTriage, an app Aetna acquired last year that helps people check and prevent illness, research medications, and manage medical appointments.

Aetna customers can also access their personal health records through the app. CarePass can’t sync up health records for non-Aetna members yet, but it plans to incorporate information from other insurance companies in the near future, says Aetna Vice President and head of CarePass Martha Wofford.

Is it Legit?

Yes, and that goes for fitness tech pros and newbies alike. CarePass isn’t the first platform to integrate multiple apps and devices in the health and fitness space. MyFitnessPal, for instance, has an extensive app library to add to its own meal and fitness tracking capability. And devices such as the Jawbone UP and Nike Fuel Band sync with dozens of other tracking apps.

Though Aetna may look like an old guy trying to hang out with the youngins’, the company has a clear advantage — Aetna’s been around the block for quite a few years and serves more than 38 million customers. It’s unclear whether or not Aetna will be able to convert insurance buyers to app aficionados, but having a built-in user-base helps put them beyond the starting line.

If we had to point out a downfall, it’s CarePass’s current lack of social sharing. Compared to individual apps with built in functions — tweet this, share that on Facebook, Instagram a selfie while running — CarePass does not have it’s own community or share buttons. Instead, each of the three set goals heave prepopulated forums on health community site SparkPeople so users can chat about their experiences with others on the same journey. We’re not sure if some people will see this as a weakness for CarePass or if others will prefer diverting to a community that already has a solid framework and major engagement. We’re curious to see how large the CarePass app network expands, if it will ever delve into it’s own social sharing platform, and how it measures up to using individual apps.

Update: On 12/10/13, CarePass announced the addition of Care4Today, which makes it more convenient for users to take their medications and communicate with physicians and pharmacists. 

We know CarePass just launched, but give if you give it a go, let us know what you think in the comment section below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott

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