Success in the Medicaid market has prompted health insurer United Healthcare to roll out its Baby Blocks maternity app to employer plans. The app includes features similar to Text4Baby, in that reminders and educational information can flow to mobile phones, but it also includes incentives, such as gift cards, baby thermometers and diaper bags, to keep moms engaged from the prenatal 39 weeks through the child’s first two years.

PR director Will Shanley told MM&M that 25,000 moms have used the English- and Spanish-language app since the 2011 Medicaid rollout in 14 states. He said the payer was surprised at just how many women “really want to engage on their phone and look to their phones as good resources.”

The app also expands on the typical maternity app by doubling as a healthcare hub, because it provides access to United Healthcare maternity nurses right from the app, in addition to providing appointment reminders, alerts, and rewards.

Shanley said gift cards have been the most popular reward, and that the insurer decided to provide rewards that could be for the mom or for the baby to make the incentives more attractive, since “not everybody is going to be motivated by the exact same thing.” He also noted that UHC has experimented with the incentive model with other programs, such as its RewardMe program in Arizona and Illinois. This program ties healthy behaviors, such as smart food choices and activity, with rewards.  Robust cause-effect data is pending, but Shanley said the level of engagement, compared to its Health4Me app, which did not include incentives, was much higher.

The overall goal is good health outcomes and potential savings. Shanley said the insurer does not yet have this data, but is looking into it.