3 strategies to win over healthcare consumers


The changing health insurance market means payers must adapt their business model to win over customers. As our recent FierceHealthPayer coverage shows, insurers must ramp up engagement efforts and meet new consumer expectations to survive during this time of change.

So what does it take to keep members happy in the new consumer-driven market? Consider these three strategies.

1. Timely communication

Communication, communication, communication--it's what health plan members want and expect from their insurance carriers. But according to several surveys, in a consumer-oriented healthcare market, insurers must deliver communication that is prompt, clear and informative.

To ensure satisfied customers, improve communication about how insurance works, as well as promptly convey both pre-approvals and cost. Doing so also will ease customer concerns about access to care, according to J.D. Power's latest Member Health Plan Study.

"[It] sounds trite in some ways but communication is absolutely key to attracting new members and keeping members satisfied. With the shift to more responsibility for healthcare going to the consumer, those consumers are now looking at healthcare plans with a whole new lens," Rick Johnson, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power, told FierceHealthPayer in a previous interview.

Moreover, customer satisfaction and loyalty requires clear and easy-to-understand communication about coverage offerings and materials. Insurers need to clarify coverage descriptions and simplify pre-enrollment materials to ensure a smooth consumer journey through the post-reform healthcare system.

2. Multichannel interactions

With that call for better communication comes the need for more channels to communicate with healthcare consumers. To deliver on consumer expectations for multichannel interactions, insurers can use mobile platforms, which can set medication reminders and alert members to gaps in meeting activity goals.

Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross (IBC), for example, is looking at how to communicate with customers via their smartphones to not only get customer feedback but also make the payer play a bigger part of their members' lives. "The more ubiquitous we are, that will allow the member to think more holistically about their healthcare and do more to manage it and maintain it," IBC Vice President of Corporate Development and Innovation Terry Booker previously told FierceHealthPayer.

As many consumers take to social media to reach out to insurers, companies must be ready to field Facebook posts and tweets with customer service assistance. Increased social engagement via accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube can help insurers connect directly with their members. 

3. Guidance

Consumers need more than new communication channels to go from simply policyholders to active healthcare users--they need guidance. Newly insured exchange enrollees, in particular, will have post-enrollment questions about insurance jargon like deductibles and copayments, how to locate a primary care physician and what to do if a doctor is out-of-network.

So, insurers need to focus on helping new members understand how to use their policies. With that in mind, IBC is reaching out to new members through mail, email and phone about identification cards and premium payments. The insurer also turned to gamification to explain the real benefits of health insurance by creating an iPad app that shows how coverage can lower out-of-pocket costs for various patient scenarios.

With member satisfaction a priority in consumer-directed healthcare, how is your health insurance company keeping members happy? - Alicia (@FierceHealth)