Exclusive: Aetna to shut down CarePass by the end of the year

By: Jonah Comstock | Aug 20, 2014        

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CarePass iPhone appAfter MobiHealthNews spotted and reported on the departure of two Aetna executives on the CarePass team, Aetna has confirmed exclusively to MobiHealthNews that it will be phasing out the platform, and that the previously announced employer pilots will not be going forward.

“At this time, we have decided to make no further investments in the CarePass platform,” an Aetna spokesperson told MobiHealthNews in an email. “Current CarePass users will continue to have access to the CarePass platform for the time being, but we plan on closing the CarePass web and mobile experiences by the end of this year. In addition, we will not be conducting pilot programs with Aetna plan sponsors that were previously reported.”

In additional comments, the company emphasized the exploratory nature of the platform and stressed that valuable lessons had been learned.

“One of the primary ways that Aetna is improving health care is through the increased use of innovative technology,” the spokesperson wrote. “We are consistently creating technology-based solutions that make it easier for consumers to navigate the health care system and get the most out of their health benefits. While we are continually developing these solutions, we also need to evaluate our investments to ensure that we are providing the most value to our members.”

The statement hinted that some of the work that had gone into the CarePass platform might resurface in other parts of Aetna’s ecosystem, including possibly iTriage, one mobile tool the company does not apparently have plans to drop.

“Aetna is committed to being a consumer-focused company that helps build a more connected and effective health care system,” the email went on. “CarePass has provided us valuable experience in important areas such as the use of open APIs for health data, helping people use their data to power health goals, and collaborating with innovative companies who are developing popular health care apps. As we improve the mobile experience for consumers through enhancements to tools like iTriage, we will use this experience to help engage people in their own health care and empower them to live healthier lives.”

As our previous article pointed out, Aetna cancelled another mobile project — InvolveCare — earlier this year, although the company had invested considerably fewer resources in that product than in CarePass. Although Aetna had begun to downplay CarePass in recent months, for most of its existence it was the face of Aetna’s consumer health outreach and its mobile health endeavors. At his December 2012 mHealth Summit keynote, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini had high hopes for the product, saying it would reduce healthcare costs and “make our economy healthier”.

The company found no shortage of willing partners to feed data into the app. Over the two years of its existence, CarePass interfaced with MapMyFitness, LoseIt, RunKeeper, Fooducate, Jawbone, Fitbit, fatsecret, Withings, breathresearch (makers of MyBreath), Zipongo, BodyMedia, Active, Goodchime!, MoxieFit, Passage, FitSync, FitBug, BettrLife, Thryve, SparkPeople, HealthSpark, NetPulse, Earndit, FoodEssentials, Personal.com, Healthline, GoodRx, GymPact, Pilljogger, mHealthCoach, Care4Today, and meQuilibrium.

But for all the support from an industry thirsty for data connectivity, an open question is whether the insurer found quite as many willing users — even after opening the platform up to all users, not just Aetna customers. It seems likely from today’s news that they did not.

  • http://www.crashutah.com/about John

    Interesting news. Definitely is a big hit to the Aetna consumer/mobile health strategy. That space is definitely harder than people want it to be.

  • Naveen Rao

    It was evident that there wasn’t much traction with CarePass at HIMSS earlier this year. So this doesn’t come as a huge surprise even though it stings a little bit. Hopefully will serve as a little reminder to all of the digital health hypemen who have been noisy all summer long that this stuff is easy to talk about, but hard to translate into business value.

    This article is great, thought the comment about iTriage is a little bit misleading – that’s not a part of carepass so much as it is an independent business unit within Aetna. iTriage is signing on their own clients, including many non-Aetna customers.

    While many will jump on this “failure” – let’s not forget that Aetna was and continues to be way ahead of the curve on the payer front when it comes to digital health. Perhaps smart of them to pull the plug on an effort that wasn’t working – fail, learn, and move forward. I’m sure there will be more news out of Aetna before too long.

  • http://www.comsi.com Jeff Brandt

    This is a shame, However patient facing apps are not the real value if they are not connected to the EHR, Insurance company as others don’t get it yet. http://jeffbrandt.blogspot.com/2014/08/insurance-companies-dont-get-it-but.html

  • Lynne

    The issue is that consumers may not like the data that they’re seeing from some of these tracking apps. The real key as a user is to realize the data to is a motivator to drive toward improvement. The tracker can’t lose weight for you but the data it yields can help you to develop habits that result in weight loss or overall health improvement (measuring activity and calories consumed).

    More at http://ldgregg.postach.io/mhealth-the-psychology-of-food-tracking-apps

  • Lynne

    I agree, Jeff. I believe that the data from the tracker has to roll up to the EHR and the first step in that direction is Apple’s HealthKit and alliances with Epic and many leading healthcare providers.

    We have a great opportunity to change healthcare and improve quality of life through this technology. Not everyone sees the vision yet.

  • http://blog.calbucci.com/ Marcelo Calbucci

    This is fundamentally a consumer-engagement issue. CarePass likely failed because it used old-industry language and mechanics to try to get users using the app. It deliver very little value for way too much effort from a users’ perspective. Aetna seems to be leading a lot of initiatives to convert itself into a software-powered health insurance company driven by consumer needs. I hope they don’t abandon that strategy.

  • kevin pereau

    CarePass failed because it articulated no value to the consumer. i was an Aetna member when they launched this and received absolutely no communication from Aetna about signing up or why that would benefit me.

  • kevin pereau

    And therein lies the problem for Aetna. They had NO data strategy for what they were collecting. CarePass was designed for Aetna to collect data from multiple source points but they had no clue what to do with it. Fitbit and others are now shifting toward data analytics. Who do you you think has better consumer brand? Fitbit, Apple, Google and even your local pharmacy are more likely to add value than an insurance carrier.

  • kevin pereau

    +1 They mention lessons learned here but I wonder what those lessons are from an Aetna perspective.

  • kevin pereau

    Define being ahead of the curve Naveen. Most people with any digital health chops would rank Aetna about dead last is this space. They have probably spent more money, including the keynote slots thank anyone else they purchase but beyond iTriage (which I love and use), they have done very little. They should go back to buying innovative solutions like they did with iTriage.

  • kevin pereau

    API’s and marketplaces have been around forever. Aetna should have brought in outside talent to drive this initiative and then moved obstacles out of the way for them to execute. They started with flawed assumptions and delivered very little value to consumers, solutions providers, members or their shareholders.

  • Suzie Mitchell

    I totally agree. I tried to talk to CarePass and Aetna exces about training Baby Boomers who should be the biggest users of the app, but it fell on deaf ears. Too bad

  • deetelecare

    Another breathlessly hyped “game-changing” platform bites the dust. Did anyone think contrarily that users did NOT want their fitness/vitals data accessible to an insurance company? It’s not like consumers think of payers overall as “good guys” particularly this year! Also you could access every one of these apps separately and only deal with the possibility that they’d sell your aggregated deidentified data. The only chance for these and for Cigna’s equivalent GoYou is to spin them off and de-identify them with the insurance parent.

  • http://www.comsi.com Jeff Brandt

    the problem with HealthKit is yet another silo as with CarePass. I am also concerned about Apple having my data, same with Google. It is a problem, I was hoping that CarePass was going to do something different, That is, pressure EHR into opening up…

  • Slim

    Kevin – I am sure you would find an equal number of critics of Dacadoo, and few would be surprised if Dacadoo followed the same path that Carepass did.

  • http://jrghealthsectoranalysis.blogspot.com/ John R Graham

    I met both Aetna executives and wrote about CarePass at my Forbes.com column. I suspect that people are just not into insurers bundling these apps for them.

  • Matthew Holt

    Clearly the bigger fools are us at Health 2.0 as we don’t sell our keynotes unlike, it seems, HIMMS and the mHealth Summit (also HIMSS owned).

    But this is more to do with a change in personnel than anything else. A new head of consumer comes in, the people running carepass exit–with less than a year on the clock of seeing if it works! methinks there’s more politics than product here.

  • http://www.shahidshah.com Shahid N. Shah

    Great comments, all — though I personally do not see this as a failure but as a smart business move. Given Apple’s and Google’s upcoming consumer health data platforms as well as Microsoft’s existing one it’s clear that the horizontal consumer tech companies will be taking the lead. Aetna did a great service by promoting CarePass when there wasn’t much interest in other consumer tech firms; however, it makes complete business sense to not compete against the consumer tech companies on the easy stuff (wearables, data collection, etc.) going forward.

    I hope, though, that while Aetna is leaving the easy stuff to the consumer tech companies they stay focused on taking new health data that our next generation devices will generate and integrating “up the care stack” to do the hard stuff like care coordination, patient engagement, and population health. There are still tons of problems that an insurer can solve that others can not. If anyone from Aetna is interested, I can list out several dozen! :-)

    Let’s not see this as failure but an acknowledgement that consumer health tech is being integrated into all our future devices and that CarePass features will be implemented by those guys instead of insurers.

  • kevin pereau

    And yet, dacadoo is still a going concern…