Last week, Aetna decided to decommission CarePass, its consumer data aggregation platform. It was initially much heralded; however, this development highlights some of the fundamental problems with the health plan’s early forays into this space. I have outlined these issues in my new report, “The Unfulfilled Promise of Plan-Owned Digital Health and Wellness Platforms.” The report went to publication before the CarePass development was announced, but this decision is not at all surprising and validates many of the fundamental challenges with early platforms identified in the report.

The decision to unplug CarePass underscores the fact that there are lots of hurdles for enterprises when it comes to growing digital health as a business. What’s interesting about CarePass is it actually cycled through several different business models during the course of its evolution – ultimately repositioning the business model late last year to go directly after employers. With this pivot, CarePass essentially became a “bring your own” wellness tool servicing the traditional book of health plan business. This may have been the best approach for CarePass, but it came late in the game. Insurance, as a whole, is going to change dramatically over the next three years — with exchanges, defined contribution, etc. Given the competing priorities and the struggles to gain adoption, CarePass may have been doomed before the final pivot back to the employer. However, CarePass did a lot of things right and the CarePass team should be congratulated for their forward approach to the market.

Regardless of CarePass' fate, platforms that can connect members to a broad array of health services through open APIs, provide standards for data aggregation, and promote integration and collaboration with consumer-facing software and devices still make a lot of sense. The trick is and will continue to be getting it right and building overt value. In the case of Aetna, mobile tools like iTriage that already have eyeballs may be an opportunity to build out some of the broader functionality that CarePass provided. UHC’s partnership and majority stake in Audax, Humana Vitality, and Cigna’s GoYou’s partnership with Welltok will all be interesting to watch moving forward. It will also be interesting to see where Apple HealthKit, Samsung, and GoogleFit emerge in terms of strategic partnering.

As the healthcare market increasingly shifts to B2C, strategies that bring data together and optimize transactions across both the pre- and post-enrollment customer journeys will become increasingly important. Over the next several years, industry players will continue to grapple with figuring out their proper place within an evolving ecosystem that must address consumers where it is most convenient and meaningful. 

One of the lessons we can take away from CarePass’ legacy is that regardless of functionality, efforts must first and foremost engage consumers as well as provide contextual value. Only then will they help unify what has been a traditionally fragmented, subpar consumer experience compared to most other industries. My report is the first in a series on health payer digital strategies. It examines some of the problems and opportunities associated with early health insurer digital health and wellness platforms and makes recommendations to eBusiness professionals tasked with building out consumer digital roadmaps.