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Insurers Must Embrace Constant Innovation in Mobile Capabilities: IBC's Yetter

Insurers must deliver the basics of mobile capabilities and expect to adapt to customer demand as it emerges, according to Michael Yetter, director of eBusiness Development, Independence Blue Cross, speaking at Insurance & Technology's Executive Summit.

Insurers seeking to develop mobile capabilities to engage with their customers must see the endeavor as a rapidly evolving process of constant innovation, counseled Michael B. Yetter, director of eBusiness Development, Independence Blue Cross (IBC), speaking in the session "Mobile Game Changers," at the 13th Annual Insurance & Technology Executive Summit, held at the Boulders Resort and Spa, Carefree, Ariz.

"You can't just deploy your mobile platform and say, OK, we're mobile, now we're done," Yetter commented.

IBC, a Philadelphia health insurer whose HMO, PPO, Medicare and Medicaid plans cover 3.2 million members and that processes over 22 million claims annually, has developed the IBX mobile portal that enables members to find doctors, verify referrals, compare prices of drugs, track spending accounts, view health history and apply for a temporary ID card, according to Yetter.

Yetter said that the insurer had addressed some of the fundamentals of mobile customer service and administration with the development of the IBX application for customers "Those are the basics we need to get right and gain trust so that customers engage more with us," he said.

Further steps will include a broker portal and enhancements to member "mHealth," or mobile health applications that encourage better exercise and nutrition on the part of members.

Yetter also spoke about IBC's exploration of "gamification," which he characterized as applying concepts of game theory to products. "The term seems to be a relatively new one -- it certainly was to me," he confided. "It embodies several concepts, including the idea that it's a process, not just a product." IBC has embarked on a gamification application pilot internally, working with vendor partner Healthrageous (Boston). The application attempts to "gamify" wellness activities through what Yetter termed Team Wellness Challenges among IBC associates. The pilot's capabilities leverage wireless devices and are designed to easily and frequently track biometric data such as weight and blood pressure."

Yetter addressed the question of why IBC chose to pilot the capabilities internally first. "People typically ask, 'Well, how does it work for you?' and we have to say, 'We don't know -- we've never tried it,'" he explained.

Referring to the intense competition between mobile platforms and devices, Yetter asserted that there would be no clear winner. "You'll have to develop [applications] based on customer need, and meet the platform where the customer happens to be," he said. "If you have to prioritize resources, focus on the most popular platform."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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