Q&A: Aetna CEO on mHealth

'Mobile is a powerful enabler'

Mark T. Bertolini, chairman, CEO and president of Aetna, delivered the opening keynote on Monday at the mHealth Summit. A former executive for Cigna, NYLCare Health Plans and SelectCare, he now oversees a global healthcare benefits company with some 33,000 employees in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Q. What event or events over the past year have had the most impact on mHealth? How has the landscape changed in the past year?

Adoption rates and utilization behaviors are having the greatest impact on mHealth. At the end of 2010, 9 percent of mobile phone users had apps on their phones to track or manage their health. By 2015, experts predict 30 percent of smartphone users are likely to use wellness apps. More and more people, across all demographic segments, are turning to mobile devices to find health information and make healthcare decisions. So, the data shows we’ve reached the tipping point with mobile … the global population expects to use mobile devices to manage their lives, and for an increasing segment, that includes their health. We need to give them the tools to make it easy.

Q. Who should have control over the regulation of mobile medical apps, and why? Are there other departments, agencies or organizations that should step back (or forward)?

We are less concerned about who regulates and more concerned with how mHealth is regulated. Regulation is needed, but should not inhibit innovations that can improve the healthcare system. Similarly, the regulatory structure should not be so complex as to delay getting new products to market. We are encouraged by the steps that Congress is taking to ensure the appropriate level of collaboration and oversight to enhance patient safety, while still encouraging innovation.

Q. Is enough being done to protect sensitive health information on mobile devices? If not, what would you propose?

The security of personal health information is a critical part of our mobile design process, as we work to find the right balance between security and user experience. In general, data security is a double-edged sword – on the one hand, it is imperative for us to protect personal health information, but on the other hand we must enable consumers to use their data, with approved partners, in order to gain real value and insight. A big part of our vision of empowering consumers includes building and providing access to the best tools that not only secure their data, but also make it simple for them to share it as they see fit. 

Q. What is the most exciting or interesting mobile device that you've seen introduced over the past year?

The whole category of personal wellness devices and the increasingly mainstream adoption of the quantified self movement are interesting trends. Devices that leverage open APIs, data collection and sharing continue to proliferate. On the mobile app front, advancements with iTriage continue to generate enthusiasm, and we’re excited about CarePass connecting different mobile apps together.

Q. How will it be a game-changer for healthcare?

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