Aetna offers SMS, apps, mobile web services

By Brian Dolan

Aetna's "On-the-Go" apps for smartphone users, which we originally wrote about in June 2009, will launch next month, according to the company. Aetna's mobile strategy does not only include smartphone apps -- the company has also launched a mobile-friendly website that's easier to browse from a handheld device and is also launching text message powered services for those users without smartphones or web browser equipped phones.

Aetna's mobile services will allow its users to look up claim statuses, find physicians, make appointments, research prescription prices and more.

“Our culture is increasingly on the go — with one in five Americans accessing the mobile web on a typical day,” Meg McCabe, vice president of consumer marketing and product for Aetna stated in a company press release. “It’s imperative that we meet our members where they are with resources that engage them in making well-informed health care decisions, improve their interactions with their physicians, and even help them save a little money along the way.”

Aetna believes that its consumers want mobile services that will help them save money and/or easily access health related information, especially personalized information like online provider directories, pricing tools and personal health records. That's why Aetna is offering its DocFind online provider directory, the Aetna Personal Health Record, Price-a-Drug, claims search, and electronic ID cards all via mobiles.

Texting service for assessing drinking problems

"Aetna is expanding its texting capabilities to its commercial membership," the company's press release states. "Later this month Aetna will pilot a text-based alcohol risk assessment to determine a member’s risk for problem drinking. This assessment will be available to callers to Aetna’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and Alcohol Disease Management program Should a member be at risk for problem drinking, they will be given the opportunity to connect with an Aetna counselor. A key aspect of the program is an automated 30-day follow-up with members, ensuring a touch point with those who may be in need of additional support."

Aetna's smartphone app

Aetna will launch an app for BlackBerry and iPhone users that equips them with more mobile functionalities than those simply visiting Aetna's new mobile site. App users will be able to use GPS to locate physicians based on their current location and receive turn-by-turn directions to the physicians offices. App users will also be able to tap and download a physician's contact info and have it download into their address book. Finally, Aetna says the accelerometer in the iPhone, which detects the phone's motion and tilt, will allow them to show their physician an electronic ID card that "looks just like the real thing."

Clearly, Aetna is looking to make these mobile services easy and fun to use on top of just being useful -- but the multi-platform launch and text message powered service shows a real willingness to address a broad spectrum of their customer base and not just those with smartphones.

For more read the Aetna release here