Payers embracing consumer technology

New landscape means new approaches to patient engagement, pop health

As they try to get a better handle on population health management and member engagement, payers are increasingly looking to consumer-facing technologies for help, according to the latest report from Chilmark Research.

The study, "2013 Payer Benchmark Report: Payer Adoption of Emerging Consumer Tech," finds that huge changes, both with technology and with the traditional health insurance model, mean payers are looking for new strategies.
 
Over the past year or so, the reality and staying power of the Affordable Care Act have sunk in, according to Chilmark, and new health insurance exchanges mean payers must make themselves better known to potential consumers while still engaging and retaining their own customers.
 
There's also an ongoing shift in the relationships between payers and providers, meanwhile, with hospitals partnering directly with employers or launching health plans that might compete with payers in the employer market, the report shows. Likewise, some payers are acquiring providers to better align financial interests with healthcare services delivered.
 
Meanwhile, consumer technology is going gangbusters, with low-cost activity tracking monitors and wearable tech spreading far beyond early adopters over the past year. This fast-evolving consumer tech market, combined with the factors described above, means payers are addressing the digital consumer in ways they haven't before.
 
One notable trend, according to the study, is that they've pulled back from a recent flurry of experimentation, instead focusing on fewer and more precise areas they think will find the most traction. The rush to create mobile app versions of member service portals and the creation of health and wellness apps have also  slowed.
 
Instead, Chilmark notes growing investment in payer-owned consumer data aggregation platforms, biometric tracking initiatives and next-generation social media platforms.
 
"What a difference a year has made to the payer market," writes Chilmark analyst Cora Sharma in a blog post. "In late 2012, Chilmark Research published the first version of our Payer Benchmark report, detailing how leading payers were beginning to adopt emerging consumer technologies. We found a market where significant experimentation was occurring, but little if any broad, member wide deployments and a market still trying to understand social media."

In the wake of this second payer report, she writes, "I find it simply amazing to see how this market has shifted over the course of a single year."

[See also: Payers embrace mHealth]