Kaiser, LifeWise smartphone apps put access to health care in palm of your hand
Monday, February 27, 2012
Gone are the days of calling physicians’ offices to schedule appointments or visiting the pharmacy to request a prescription refill.
Kaiser Permanente and LifeWise of Washington have recently launched smartphone apps and mobile-optimized websites to make health care on the go possible.
“We’re seeing more and more people using mobile technology,” said Alex Lowenthal with Kaiser. “And they want their bank, health insurance provider, physician to come along with them.”
In January, Kaiser did just that when it launched a mobile-optimized site and an app for Android devices. An iPhone app is still in the works, though visiting the mobile site on an iPhone affords the same capabilities as the app.
When people access the Kaiser website from their smartphone, they are automatically redirected to the mobile site. The site offers all of the functionality of the regular website, Lowenthal said.
“We’ve unleashed the whole host of services available to our members at kp.org,” he said.
Kaiser members have the ability to use their mobile devices to schedule appointments, request prescription refills, email their physicians and review lab results.
LifeWise of Washington, which serves nearly 8,500 Clark County residents, also launched a mobile app in January.
The app, LifeWise Mobile, allows members to search for in-network physicians, hospitals, pharmacies and clinics and review their coverage eligibility. Members can also access the 24-hour nurse line and customer service line.
Backup for lack of ID
In addition, the app gives members the ability to send their proof of insurance coverage directly to their provider, in case they don’t have their ID card on hand, said Randy Turner with LifeWise.
“We’re taking the things that are available on our website that a lot of people may want to access on their mobile device and extending it to their mobile device,” Turner said.
LifeWise is exploring ways to enhance its mobile capabilities to include benefit information and pharmacy tools, such as filling prescriptions and accessing information about generic medications, Turner said. The organization is also planning to incorporate upcoming health initiatives into the app, perhaps giving members the ability to use their mobile device to engage in health activities.
Kaiser, which serves about 94,000 people in Clark County, has similar goals.
Among the ideas are features to help new members transition into the Kaiser system and methods of monitoring and recording exercise, Lowenthal said. The goal is to empower people to make better, more informed decisions and healthier choices, he said.
Last year, Kaiser launched its KP Locator app that allows people to find the nearest Kaiser clinic or pharmacy. Kaiser is looking for ways to enhance that offering, perhaps to include features such as estimated wait times, Lowenthal said.
Lowenthal and Turner said the apps and mobile sites offer the same security features as the traditional websites. Login information is required before entering the site and members are signed off when they leave the mobile site.
As the proliferation of cellphones continues, Lowenthal and Turner said they expect other health organizations to follow suit and use new media to meet their members’ expectations for access to health care.
“It’s very rapidly becoming the technology of choice for both our providers and customers,” Lowenthal said.