Source: ThinkStock

– Payers are discovering that an mHealth program that focuses on just the Fitbit or Apple Watch won’t ensure widespread engagement or positive outcomes. They’re instead adopting bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs that allow members to choose their own wearables.

Humana’s new partnership with digital health company Validic proves the point. The Louisville, KY-based insurer is teaming up with Validic to give its Go365 wellness and rewards program a connected health platform that can accommodate hundreds of devices, including wearables and apps.

The goal is simple: Fitbit and Apple may hold onto a good chunk of the consumer wearable market, but not everyone likes or can afford their products – in fact, some 35 percent of that market is held by companies not in the top 5. A more inclusive mHealth service allows the member to choose the device that fits best into his or her lifestyle.

“We are proud to provide programs that support people in their journey to better health,” Jeff Reid, senior vice president of Humana Wellness Solutions, said in a press release issued today. “In broadening the accessibility of Go365 – both in terms of connectivity and membership – we enable more people, including those with differing socioeconomic backgrounds or health challenges, to achieve better health in a premier wellness program.”

It’s not a particularly new concept, either. At Xtelligent Healthcare Media’s Value-Based Care Summit last October in Boston, former Humana VP Worthe Holt said the company – like its competitors – is looking for easy and cost-efficient ways to leverage data from members. The more data it gets, the more reliable and effective the advice it can give back to members and providers.

READ MORE: Current And Future Doctors Are More Than Ready to Use mHealth Wearables

“Anything that we can do that will allow us to deliver care more efficiently, meaning at a lower cost and more effectively, with a better outcome and decrease the burden on the physician as well as the member, has the potential to bring tremendous value to the table,” he said in a Healthcare Strategies podcast recorded at the event.

Partnerships like this also allow the payer to develop integrated mHealth and telehealth services for more complex cases, like members with chronic diseases or multiple conditions.

Last December, Humana launched a remote patient monitoring pilot program with Philips, creating a multi-faceted telemedicine platform to monitor select members on Medicare Advantage plans in their homes.

“This data will be utilized to support Humana care teams in making informed and proactive care decisions with the pilot group in an effort to help to reduce unnecessary readmissions,” the company said in the press release.

Humana isn’t the only payer seeing the value in diversity. In a recent interview with mHealthIntelligence, Pat Keran, UnitedHealthcare’s Vice President of Product and Innovation, says health plans have multiple channels available to them influence both members and care providers.

READ MORE: Consumer Tech Association Unveils A Consumer’s Guide to mHealth Wearables

These companies have long collected and used data to help steer members toward making better healthcare decisions, he says; now they’re creating pathways for members and pulling providers into the loop to enhance those connections.

“It’s all about remote care for the individual,” says Keran, who’s been at the forefront of several connected health programs launched by one of the country’s largest payers over the past few years. “We’re developing (resources that promote) low-cost, high-efficiency access to care,” so that care is no longer defined by the hospital, doctor’s office or clinic.

The plethora of consumer-facing mHealth products “is lending itself to usefulness,” says Keran. “We’re seeing (care providers) use these tools … and we’re looking for the good spots where we can enter into that space.”

Some in the market are looking to guide their member toward vetted devices and services. Cigna subsidiary Express Scripts, for instance, unveiled a digital health formulary late last year that identifies 15 products or services from seven mHealth and telehealth companies that pass the company’s muster.

“Participating health plans and employers can increase patients’ access to emerging products and technologies simply and affordably, and can rest easier with the knowledge that these new tools have been reviewed by a team of experts who will ensure the products work, provide a user-friendly experience and are worth the investment,” the company said in a press release. “People who use a program on the Digital Health Formulary also will receive support from Express Scripts specialist pharmacists to ensure appropriate use of the technology.”

READ MORE: 21st Century Cures Act’s Authors to Focus on mHealth in Cures 2.0

Keran says there are still hurdled to clear with data reliability and integration, but the opportunities created by mHealth and telehealth give UnitedHealthcare, Humana and others the chance to push the needle on both member engagement and clinical outcomes.

“We’re creating whole new avenues to virtual care,” he says. “And it’s because we’re getting all this data.”

Source: Payers Are Embracing All-Inclusive mHealth, Telehealth Platforms