Aetna is rolling out a new flagship app, Aetna Health, to put all features in one place, and is shutting down several of its other mobile apps.

Health insurer Aetna is rolling out a new flagship app called Aetna Health.

After a six-month trial period, the insurer deployed the app to about 20 of its large employer clients in January 2018, says Firdaus Bhathena, vice president, head of digital products, for Aetna. In these first three or four months, the app has tens of thousands of downloads and users, he says.

The insurer is incorporating feedback and fixing bugs in this phase and has a “fairly aggressive plan” to deploy the app to the few hundred employer clients it has within the next few months, Bhathena says.

The Aetna Health app lets consumers search for a provider in their network, get an estimate of the cost of a service, look up claims, check their balance on a health savings account and store a digital insurance card.

Aetna is not new to the mobile arena, however in the last year it has taken a new approach to how it executes its mobile strategy. Previously, Aetna used vendors or acquired technology for its digital assets, such as its 2012 acquisition of Healthagen, the developer of medical app iTriage. Now, Aetna is focusing on investing its resources in-house, such as hiring employees from venture-back technology start-ups such as Bhathena. Aetna has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into its new mobile initiatives and it has hundreds of employees on the Aetna digital team, Bhathena says.

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“We are infusing software and technology into the DNA of Aetna,” Bhathena says. “That is the only way to grow and to be successful.”

As Aetna rolls out its Aetna Health app, Aetna it is slowly shutting down its other apps, such as iTriage and Aetna Mobile. The Aetna Health app is meant to have all the features in one place instead of having many separate apps, which is confusing for consumers, Bhathena says.

“A big part of the effort is to make it easy to use,” he says. This doesn’t mean Aetna will have a “one app or bust policy,” but having features integrated in one place make it more user-friendly, he says.

Many of these features in the app are available in Aetna’s web portal, which is also available on a mobile browser, but having the features in the app lets consumers use smartphone-specific features, such as logging in quickly with a fingerprint and using the camera to capture and store an insurance card.

“Ultimately you can do things in app that you can do in a browser interface. But it’s the quality of the experience and the speed and responsiveness of the app,” Bhathena says.

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Future versions of the app can include more of these smartphone features, such as location data. For example, if Aetna wanted to encourage consumers to take a flu shot, it could send a push notification to app users who are near to a CVS pharmacy that has flu shots in stock, he says. (CVS Health Corp. announced in December it will buy Aetna in a deal valued at $77 billion.)

We are infusing software and technology into the DNA of Aetna.

But first, Aetna is focused on getting the basics right and making the app easy to use. Already in the first few months, the insurer has made a few user experience updates. For example, when a user goes to the “My Claims” section on the app, instead of having all of the claims listed in order, Aetna now bumps the unpaid claims to the top so users can see the ones that need attention. Aetna also reduced the number of clicks to get to a particular screen.

“In good user experience, less is always more,” Bhathena says. “Show me less stuff and make it be the stuff you really want me to look at, then I’ll pay attention.”

Aetna is working with employers’ plan sponsors to update consumers about the new app, and it is training its customer service reps to talk about the app if a consumer calls in with a question that could be solved with the app.

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