Payer app opens door to Medicaid

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

UnitedHealthcare has launched a new version of its Health4Me app for Medicaid members in 17 states, opening the popular mHealth platform to a population that often faces challenges in finding, accessing and paying for healthcare.

Officials say the app, available on iPhone and Android devices and with versions targeted for the payer's 13 million-plus health plan members and Medicaid members as well as guests, has been downloaded more than 1.4 million times since its launch in 2012, and they hope to reach 2 million downloads by the end of this year. It targets a growing consumer interest in accessing relevant health information on mobile devices.

More importantly, the app will help low-income and underserved populations – the bulk of which rely on Medicaid for health coverage – to find health information and resources when and where they need it most. 

[See also: Payers explore new uses for apps]

"By customizing Health4Me for Medicaid beneficiaries, we are putting relevant health plan information at our members' fingertips," Brett Edelson, vice president of UnitedHealthcare's Medicaid business, told mHealth News. "The UnitedHealthcare Community Plan version of Health4Me is now available to beneficiaries in 17 states, enabling people to access a digital ID card, plan summary (and) member handbook, locate nearby healthcare providers and facilities and obtain information from a nurse. All of these features are designed to help people understand and use their health benefits, improve their health and more easily navigate the health system."

The app is now available to Medicaid members in Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

"It was important to design a mobile app that was easy to use and provided the most relevant information to the Medicaid beneficiaries we serve," Edeslon said. "We talked with Medicaid beneficiaries to understand what features were more important to them, taking those cues to develop an intuitive experience that can help people live healthier lives."

[See also: New project to test whether wearables meet seniors' needs]

UnitedHealthcare has been investing millions in mobile health capabilities since venturing into the landscape some five years ago, according to Craig Hankins, vice president of digital products, in a recent interview with Albuquerque Business First.

"We phased (the apps) in over time. Health4Me launched in 2012, but we launched the first apps in 2009 and 2010," he said. "We've kind of kept adding to the mobile space as we have learned how people use the apps and have gotten to know what other areas are opportunities for us. We're just at the cusp of mobile apps and healthcare. As the industry addresses issues such as data privacy, there will be more."