mHealth 2013: Interview with Aetna’s Martha Wofford

December 11, 2013
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mHealth interviewOne of the brightest stars at the star-studded 2013 mHealth Summit is Martha L. Wofford, an Aetna vice president and head of the company’s new CarePass program, which is designed to produce an ecosystem of apps powered by an open, digital platform, enabling consumers to control their data and manage their whole health.

mHealth interviewOne of the brightest stars at the star-studded 2013 mHealth Summit is Martha L. Wofford, an Aetna vice president and head of the company’s new CarePass program, which is designed to produce an ecosystem of apps powered by an open, digital platform, enabling consumers to control their data and manage their whole health.  It also supports a developer community, to unleash their creativity in creating consumer solutions.  On a snowy day in the nation’s capital, I caught up with Ms. Wofford after her presentation on new developments in mobile health.

HWC–Explain how CarePass helps consumers.

MW- We’ve been focused on how to make it more convenient for consumers to access their health care information and access health care itself. A couple of years ago we acquired iTriage, which is an app that now has 10.5 million downloads, and what we’ve connected in CarePass is for consumers to be able to share their doctor’s visits to try to connect more components with one’s whole health. With CarePass we’re trying to let a consumer bring together the pieces of their health into a whole view of health. We’re connecting core medical data — as permitted by the Aetna member — with apps that lead to a broader picture of one’s whole health. We launched in June and are going to be increasingly working with our plan sponsors to reach our 22 million medical members.

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HWC–What’s been the most exciting development in mHealth this year?

MW- The most exciting development this year probably is the release of the FDA guidance on the regulations for mobile health, giving greater clarity to consumers. And the other thing is the explosion of personal devices; there are so many for the consumer to choose from. And there’s been a lot of funding into the mobile health space, a lot of it focused on the devices, which provides a lot of choice for consumers but also provides a difficult landscape to navigate. So the more we can help find tools that meet their needs, the easier it is for them to navigate this exciting and dynamic but potentially confusing space.

HWC–Given the wide use of mobile apps, what’s stopping mHealth from faster growth?

MW – It’s becoming more mainstream, but I believe it’s bifurcated. There’s one area around the whole fitness aspect and nutrition and wellness, which is getting more mainstream. But the other is the less-well side, with a lot of chronic conditions and because mobile health is not yet integrated into the providers’ workflow — the doctors’ day to day activities with their patients — it doesn’t necessarily impact the quality of care yet. I think that’s the real opportunity to drive mobile health to have a greater impact on the health care system. Doctors need to take the data and use it to deliver more personalized, higher quality care for patients with a lot of chronic conditions.

HWC — Is the Affordable Care Act affecting mHealth in any way?

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MW – There’s a new wellness incentive, which has been increased up to 30 percent of premiums. So employers can really start to reward employees for taking healthier steps, which is important for consumers. People are different and, for some, incentives are impactful and get them to change their behavior, but not for everybody. We have a real challenge here to affect the incredible rise of chronic conditions, which really threatens to bankrupt the quality of life for Americans and our economy. Also, I think with exchanges, we’re going to see the shopping experience for insurance and those plans become more simple to understand and be displayed on a mobile phone. I expect the increased simplicity to make the mobile phone a more useful tool.

HWC–What’s next for CarePass?

MW – We’re really excited about the partnership with Janssen and its Care4Today app we announced today. We’re also launching an integration with meQuilibrium, which is an app that allows consumers to manage their stress and we’re taking in mood information so you can track mood within CarePass. Stress is really important; over one-quarter of US adults are stressed or highly stressed and there’s a negative impact stress has on one’s whole health. Those are two pieces of expansion and as we look ahead integrating with incentives from employers. And we will continue to broaden the number of partners we have in areas like fitness, nutrition, sleep, stress and medication adherence, as well as expanding into new areas.