Aetna's InvolveCare app supports caregiver families

By Jonah Comstock

iOS 6 GUI PSD (iPhone 5)A new Aetna Healthagen app to empower caregivers, InvolveCare, launched in beta recently and was publicly unveiled at the Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, California.

InvolveCare's CEO, David Williams, is a former Head of Business Development for PatientsLikeMe. Williams, who cares for his own aging father, wanted to build a product to help caregivers -- and also to help caregivers get help of their own.

"InvolveCare focuses on not only taking care of say a senior, aging relative, a parent, but it opens up the network to take care of each other," Williams told MobiHealthNews. "One of the hidden costs of caregiving is on the personal health of the caregiver. So one of the things we want to support is not only having the family -- brothers, sisters, daughters, sons --help the aging parent, but also helping each other so they can reduce the burden and stress on the actual caregiver."

The app has sign-ons for any number of family members and friends who want to share care giving responsibilities. The person being cared for can make posts about things they need -- a meal, a ride to the doctor's office, help with a task. Those opportunities to help are posted to the whole family (or whatever portion of it the poster selects) and anyone can opt in by clicking a button marked "I can do that."

If no one is able to help with a caregiving task, the app taps into Aetna's database of care vendors -- adult daycare, meals, hospice care -- and can give the user instructions to find the nearest, best service.

The app is being developed for Android and iOS operating systems and will be free to download. InvolveCare plans to monetize the app by working with employers. It will leverage its connection with Aetna to find partners.

"Caregivers are active employees," Williams said. "And if you look at the latest data from Pew Internet, people who are caregivers miss 6.6 days of work per year due to caregiving. If you can reduce that from a productivity cost perspective, employers benefit." (Correction: The 6.6 days of work figure actually comes from a 2010 Gallup poll.)

Recent Pew data confirmed that as the baby boomer generation ages, more and more Americans are becoming caregivers, and that there's a definite growth opportunity for them to use more online and mobile tools. A few other recent apps to target the space include Unfrazzle, Rajiv Mehta's latest venture, and a pilot with Veterans Affairs testing a suite of 10 specially-made apps for caregivers.

Aetna, which bought iTriage maker Healthagen nearly two years ago, resurrected the Healthagen brand name earlier this year to cover a new batch of in-house incubated Aetna digital health companies. The brand includes iTriage, Medicity, WellMatch, and PracticeIQ.