Reporter's Notebook: 4 consumer engagement tips from AHIP Institute 2014


Health insurance is going retail, so industry experts at this week's AHIP Institute Consumer Experience Forum in Seattle focused on how to smooth the transition to a business-to-consumer market. They offered guidance on how to ensure brand loyalty, engage new consumers, and take the consumer experience beyond member acquisition to retention.

Here are four of the insights shared during the Wednesday sessions:

1. How to strengthen consumer relationships: Set common expectations for the healthcare experience and divulge more information between members and health plans to develop strong relationships and foster high levels of satisfaction, advised Clay Heinz, vice president at UnitedHealth's Optum. He said payers should not only give consumers information to make smart healthcare choices, but also gather information from them to determine how to improve engagement efforts.

2. Gain consumer and provider trust: "If they don't trust you, they won't transact," UnitedHealth Group Director of Innovation and R&D Jayant Parthasarathy said of consumer concerns with the healthcare reimbursement process. The consumer-centric approach to healthcare also stirs up fears among providers. He told the audience to think about consumerism from the provider perspective and acknowledge that providers want payment assurance.

3. Ease consumer concerns: The confusion for new health insurance consumers under the Affordable Care Act revolves around three questions--how to manage a plan, how to manage health and how to manage money, Heinz said. Payers can ease those concerns by implementing onboarding processes that involve designated navigators, preferred channels of communication, health risk surveys and appointment scheduling, among offerings.

4. What it takes for brand recognition: In a retail health insurance environment, insurers need brand recognition and loyalty to succeed. That requires a common unified user experience for the individual consumer, noted Phil Harker, senior vice president of client development and operations at Audax.

"Nothing is more frustrating than filling out a health assessment … and feeling like you opened up yourself and then you go to the doctor and they say 'can you fill this out,'" Harker said. The industry needs to eliminate that fragmented user experience with unified digital platforms that share clinical and lifestyle information across providers. It's also important to personalize the unified user experience to add value, he added.