Anthem launches app allowing patients to text with docs

By | July 23, 2019

Dive Brief:

  • Anthem is partnering with venture-backed K Health to launch an app that gives its 40 million members quicker access to treatment options and allows members to text with doctors — all for less than a copay, the company announced Monday.
  • Anthem is investing an undisclosed sum numbering in “the tens of million of dollars” in K Health, which to date has raised more than $ 50 million. K Health is an artificial intelligence-driven app that shows members how doctors have treated other patients experiencing similar symptoms.
  • Anthem and K Health said they believe the deal will improve access to care while driving down overall costs.

Dive Insight:

With a few clicks on their phones, consumers are used to hailing rides, shopping and ordering takeout. But that easy access hasn’t always translated to the healthcare sector.

But in its latest venture, Anthem is attempting to change that. The new app aims to better meet consumers’ needs and alleviate the burdens that plague the healthcare system such as long wait times to see doctors.

In fact, many consumers said easy access to care and convenience are the most important factors when making healthcare decisions, even outranking quality of care, according to a recent consumer trend report by NRC Health.

It’s one factor that’s led to the growth in urgent care clinics and retail based clinics, such as Walgreens’ and CVS’ walk-in clinics.

With Anthem and K Health’s technology, members can engage with the AI-based app that is backed by data from “10,000 doctors and 20 years of anonymized health records,” the company said. It allows consumers to chat for free with the app, which is trained to ask questions about medical history, age and gender as it attempts to resolve the consumer’s health concern.

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From there, patients can then chat with doctors.

“The product is aggregating the wisdom of the entire medical community within one intelligent machine that gets smarter over time,” the company said in a statement.

Over the years, visits to traditional primary care physicians have plummeted. According to the Health Care Cost Institute, primary care visits have dropped 18% between 2012 and 2016 for those with employer-based coverage.

Even in the Medicare population, primary care accounts for a fraction of overall expenditures, despite a push to use more preventative medicine.

K Health was co-founded by Allon Bloch, who previously served as co-CEO for Wix, an online publishing site. He also helped co-found Vroom, an online car retailer.

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