Better engagement means treating members as customers first, patients second

Payers must be 'media savvy,' open to new ideas

The ongoing shift in the way consumers interact with health insurance companies forces payers to treat them as members first and patients second.

"We have been very good at interacting with members 9-to-5, but we have to figure out how to engage members when and where they want," Tom Olenzak, director of corporate development and innovation at Independence Blue Cross, said during a panel at the MidAmerica Healthcare Venture Forum, according to MedCity News.

This strategy takes on added importance as payers interact directly with consumers on health insurance exchanges, panelists said. In addition, because consumers increasingly prefer high-deductible health plans to high-premium plans, they take on more out-of-pocket costs and therefore deserve to know more about how what that money gets them. That's why insurers must be careful that consumer engagement doesn't get in the way of efficiency, simplicity and affordability.

In order to do this, Michael Sturmer, senior director of consumer health engagement at Cigna, said payers need to take a storyteller's approach to engagement and education. Such an approach demonstrates that insurers see members as consumers first and patients second--as people who want to get and stay healthy.  

"We have always tried to educate customers, but the way we have gone about it was not very effective," Sturmer said. "There's no reason why we can't be more media-savvy."

Prudent insurers should approach new product development the way startups do, testing products on consumers several times and refining them as needed, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. Critically, this approach also means being open to new ideas, even and especially if those ideas first emerge outside the walls of a payer organization.

"One of the things we are looking at are small companies solving a problem across a specific pain point," Olenzak said at the panel. "When you start tugging on certain threads in healthcare, you realize many of these [solutions] are connected."

For more:
- here's the MedCity News article

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