iTriage, an early mobile health success, shuts down as Aetna preps for new flagship app

By Jonah Comstock
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Aetna's iTriage, a symptom checker app that was one of the earliest successful exits in the digital health space, has officially disappeared from the app store after being "sunsetted" to make room for a new, upcoming app called Aetna Health, Babyforyou.net.ua has learned. Aetna Health launched in January and is currently available to a select group of Aetna members.

"We were starting to get to the point where we were confusing members with a lot of different digital efforts and frankly we still have a lot of them out there," Firdaus Bhathena, Aetna's Head of Digital Products, told Babyforyou.net.ua. "But it should come as no surprise to anybody that companies like Aetna are rapidly moving to be consumer-focused, very much putting the consumer at the center of everything we do. In the pursuit of that goal, we looked at all the digital assets we had and put together a timetable of what would be retired when, as its functionality makes its way into our new flagship app, … Aetna Health."

As of now, neither iTriage nor iTriage Essentials, the next-generation version that launched in February 2016, is available in the Apple App Store or Google Play store. The app disappeared sometime late last year. Aetna Health, on the other hand, has been available for download since January 1, 2018, though it requires a login to use.

Bhathena confirmed that the iTriage brand has been retired and will not be used again. iTriage President Yaniv Kanfi left the company at the time of the Aetna Health transition, but much of the team is still at Aetna working out of iTriage's Denver office, which is now an office of Aetna Digital, the business unit that is developing the Aetna Health app. 

"I run Aetna Digital, which is the new software product organization that Aetna created a year and a half or so ago," Bhathena said. "And I call it a software product organization because that’s how we think of it. We are fundamentally changing the DNA of the company to have software and technology be a key part of what drives us forward. So Aetna Digital is the umbrella organization into which a lot of different things that we're operating go. It gives us efficiency. It gives us economies of scale."

Aetna Health will allow users to review claims, see in-network cost estimates; track progress toward their deductible; review HSA, FSA, and HRA balances; pull up digital member IDs; search and price medical care; find in-network providers; and get cost estimates for care. It will also incorporate most of the functionality from iTriage, Bhathena said.

Aetna acquired the iTriage app in late 2011, when it bought Healthagen, the company that developed the app, for an undisclosed sum. At the time, the app — which included a symptom navigator feature that routes patients to local providers, as well as emergency room wait times for certain hospitals, check-in features for some ERs, and appointment setting features for some physician offices — was set to be at the forefront of Aetna's consumer engagement strategy.

The app was considered a major success story in its day. In 2012, United States Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said the goal of the White House's Open Data Initiative was "to clone [iTriage founder] Pete Hudson" and his app. In 2013, Hudson was a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union. In 2014, Hudson and cofounder Wayne Guerra left the company.

In the years since, iTriage managed to survive pivots that took out several consumer-facing Aetna apps including caregiver app InvolveCare and wellness hub CarePass. Although the company piloted a new version of its app, iTriage Essentials, in February 2016, hard times hit the following month when it merged the business with its Wellmatch price transparency business and laid off 26 iTriage employees.

Ultimately, Bhathena says, Aetna has to do what's in the best interest of its members, which is to create a streamlined, easy-to-use and understand app, especially as other big events in Aetna's life lead it deeper into consumerization.

"Aetna has put itself on a path in moving from a healthcare financier to becoming a health and wellness partner for consumers at large," he said. "We think that will be supercharged by the acquisition from CVS that will hopefully close in the near future. It is with that laser focus on the member and putting the member at the center of everything that we do that we designed Aetna Health. ... The future is all along the lines of marrying Aetna’s rich and powerful data and data analytics with a digital engagement experience that is surprising and delightful, which is, we think, where all the magic happens."

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