There has been no shortage of health insurers who have made news over the past few years by embracing a more customer-centric business strategy and, as a result, rolling out several customer-facing online tools. The next step though, I believe, center around how insurers make those tools available to members (and, in some instance, potential members) on mobile devices. It's something that I'll write about in an upcoming Update story about a recent project at WellPoint.I'd argue that one of the primary reasons that customers began demanding or expecting better online functionality from their insurers was because broadband internet access, over the past few years, has become much more prevalent in the homes of average Americans. Fewer consumers were looking for transparency tools and online provider directories when their 56k dial-up modems grinded web surfing to a snail's pace.
With that sentiment in mind, perhaps a similar transformation is on verge of taking place on mobile devices. While web-enabled mobile phones, BlackBerries, iPhones and the like have already reached a critical mass, some recent developments could lead to a vastly improved overall mobile experience and, as a results, perhaps wider acceptance of mobile applications by the public at large. Early this month, a diverse group of companies including Sprint Nextel, Google, Intel, Comcast, Time Warner and Clearwire came together and announced a joint effort to build a next-generation wireless data network.
from the New York Times:
The partners have put the value of the deal at $14.5 billion, a figure that includes radio spectrum and equipment provided by Sprint Nextel and Clearwire, and $3.2 billion from the others involved.
They expect the network, which will provide the next generation of high-speed Internet access for cellphone users, to be built in as little as two years, but there is no timetable on when it will be available to users and the price is not determined. The partners are seeking to beat Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless to the market.
The hope of the telecommunications industry is that users will begin using such service for a range of applications, including surfing the Internet on laptops and phones, and downloading music and video more often to those kinds of devices.
I don't know enough about wireless data networks to understand the full impact of this agreement, but I do know that improved data speeds will undoubtedly lead to an uptick in the number of organizations that focus more effort on mobile, customer-facing applications.
Right now, cell phones and other devices have certainly reached a critical mass, but web-based applications build for those devices are lagging just a bit behind.
As the times article suggests, "The wireless network of the future is expected to be fast enough - rivaling speeds that cable customers have in their homes today - to allow delivery not just of text and simple Web pages, but of video and advertising."
If and when that occurs, consumers will start expecting insurers to deliver mobile functionality in the same way that they are just now starting to deliver web functionality.There has been no shortage of health insurers who have made news over the past few years by embracing a more customer-centric business strategy and, as a result, rolling out several customer-facing online tools. The next step though, I believe, center around how insurers make those tools available to members (and, in some instance, potential members) on mobile devices.