iTriage plans to move into virtual visits, price transparency

By Jonah Comstock
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Jim-Greiner-CorporateiTriage, the mobile health app company acquired by Aetna in 2011, has plans to become a personal virtual healthcare concierge, according to new President Jim Greiner, who told MobiHealthNews the move could include expansion into price transparency and even virtual visits.

"One of the things that differentiates us compared to all other connected apps out there is we’re really good at integrating and tying it all together," Greiner said in an interview at the mHealth Summit in National Harbor, Maryland. "We’re not just focused on providing information like WebMD, we’re not just focused on booking appointments like ZocDoc, We’re integrating that whole stream of information and -- the real vision of this is -- I want this to be the personal virtual healthcare concierge. Any question they have, any issue they have, [users] can use iTriage 24/7 to get that first opinion on their medical wellbeing."

Greiner says the project at iTriage over this last year, since shortly before founders Peter Hudson and Wayne Guerra moved on in April, has been shifting focus from reach and scale to driving more meaningful interaction between patients and doctors. 

"We’re all about breadth and ubiquity, but breadth and ubiquity doesn’t really matter," Greiner said. "We have 13 or 14 million downloads right now, probably one of the leading connected mobile apps out there, but reach doesn’t really matter unless you have engagement. So we’re really focused on creating the right formula and getting people to engage more. And then we’ll turn back up the scale."

That engagement, at first, is coming in the form of iTriage Connect, a product announced last July which provides direct, secure messaging between patients and doctors within the apps, using government approved standards from the HHS Direct project. This will help people with low health literacy to really understand what happened at their doctor visits and what steps to take next, Greiner explained.

"The challenge there is working with our healthcare provider partners to make sure that fits well into their workflow," he said. "Because we’ve learned if it doesn’t fit into their workflow it’s not as effective as it could be."

The increased focus on engagement is also meant to allow iTriage to demonstrate return on investment for provider and payer customers, to tell them how much money patients saved when the app directed them to the most cost-effective treatment option.

"One of the micro problems of the whole macro issue is we’re really trying to solve the whole problem of helping people understand when to go and when not to go to an acute care visit," Greiner said. "Forty percent of ER visits are unnecessary, and that’s a little over one quarter of the $750 billion in waste per year. We think we can make a huge dent in that not just by educating people, but also helping them to decide, then helping them connect and take action and go to urgent care when it’s appropriate instead of going to an ER."

This year also saw a re-branding for iTriage, meant to make clear their expanded focus from emergency situations to being a general medical companion app. That's going to be followed up in 2015 by a redesign, Greiner said.

"We’re going to actually redo the user experience because we want to refresh it away from the 2012 version we have and bring it into 2015. That’s going to focus on things like personalization and natural language search and things like that, to help it really be convenient for you," he said. "Personalization being the ability to see loved ones’ profiles and more easily share your information and collect your information."

And after that, iTriage will start to push into areas like healthcare cost and quality transparency and virtual visits.

"We believe there’s a huge amount of opportunity to crack virtual visits, which no one really has yet. I know there’s a bunch of startups, old ones and a bunch of new ones that are doing that, but we think we can play a role in helping people do that. If you look at the stats, very few people even understand what telemedicine is," he said. "Very few people understand what virtual visits are. Even though they’re supposed to double or triple next year, it’s a very small base."