Connecting with Members in Their World…(Not Yours)

Years ago, when you wanted to find a local business, you opened a big yellow tome and flipped through mind-numbing, alphabetized lists of companies. It was tedious and cumbersome, but until Google, we didn’t know any different.

Clearly things are quite a bit different today. Smartphones have taught consumers to expect everything to be a tap or two away, and this mindset challenges every industry to rethink the way they work.

Unfortunately, the healthcare industry is incredibly complex. Payers and providers have to navigate precise legal and medical vocabulary, coordinate information from multiple sources, keep accurate records of rapidly changing financial information, and somehow make that all available to consumers.

It’s no wonder most people don’t understand the basics of healthcare. But unfortunately, many payers still treat their members as if the intricacies of the industry are intuitive.

If you want to serve your members well, you need to cross the divide and connect with them in their own world. We can’t change the way the industry works internally, but we can simplify the way members experience their healthcare.

Here’s how you can meet your members where they’re at.

Make their health plan more accessible

Today’s consumers have unprecedented access to information. Technology has trained us to believe that it’s often faster to find what we need with a website or an app than it is to contact a company directly, and there are digital equivalents for just about every task.

Self-service is the way of the future for healthcare—but it’s the way of the present for almost every other part of your members’ lives. Many payers treat online healthcare solutions as a box to check, not a real problem to solve. This often produces clunky member portals and complicated websites that leave members feeling like they can’t navigate their healthcare plan without professional help.

Here are a few things you can do to make your members’ health plans more accessible.

Keep it simple

Imagine if before you could use Facebook, you had to fill out 100 percent of your profile. All of a sudden it takes a lot more time and effort to wish your aunt a happy birthday or see your friend’s baby pictures. And it would be incredibly frustrating, because you shouldn’t need a bio or a featured video to do those things.

The same is true for anything you ask your members to do online. Payers and providers often ask for far more information than they need–because it’s nice to have at some point. But if you want to provide convenient, accessible care, don’t ask for information until you need it.

That means you should simplify the enrollment process. Keep forms to a minimum and eliminate fields that ask for information that doesn’t directly pertain to the thing you need people to do. The more hoops you create, the fewer people will make it through to the action you want them to take. (And the more they’ll feel like working with you is a hassle.)

Lengthy sign up processes often make healthcare plans look and feel more complicated than they need to be.

Use more familiar language

When it comes to healthcare, precision matters. But when payers let jargon or internal terminology slip into customer-facing information, it creates confusion, not clarity. If there are complicated terms your members need to know, define them, so there’s less room for confusion. (Keep in mind, you will probably have to reiterate these definitions more than once).

And of course, if there are terms your members don’t need to know, replace them with consumer-friendly language. Whenever you write customer-facing communications, be sure that part of your editing process involves filtering out unnecessary internal language and jargon.

Think mobile-first

People do everything on their phones. 77 percent of all Americans have smartphones, and 60 percent of smartphone owners use their phone to look up information about health conditions.

That means that even if your portal only lives on your website and you don’t have a mobile app, it still needs to look good on a small screen.

If people have to squint and zoom and scroll to use your portal, they’re simply not going to use it. When your portal is too difficult to interact with, people will either:

  1. Give up on what they were trying to do.
  2. Make you help them with something they could have done themselves.

The solution? Responsive web design. This allows members to visit your website on any device, instead of forcing them to sit down at a computer. At Healthx, we help payers accommodate their increasingly mobile members with our Hx Mobile Engagement Suite.

Healthcare payers can also encourage members to utilize telemedicine–which is more efficient for providers and more accessible for members. Instead of planning their day around a trip to the doctor’s office, members can benefit from professional one-on-one medical care from their home, workplace, or anywhere else.

Explain things more than once

It’s easy to feel like if you’ve told someone how to do something once, you’ve done your job. But that’s not the right way to approach serving your members. A single email, letter, or phone call probably isn’t enough for someone to remember how to interact with their plan. And even if they keep every piece of communication with you, they shouldn’t have to dig through piles of records to find basic information.

We recommend using multiple touchpoints to tell members how to interact with their plan. It may not be appropriate to give a tutorial every time, but you should at least provide clear links to more information whenever you talk about things people can do in your portal.

Put everything they need in one place

It’s unusual for an organization to find one tool that does everything they need. You might be accustomed to using separate software, tools, and panels for:

  • Integrating claims
  • Messaging
  • Telemedicine
  • Enrollment
  • Billing
  • Wellness information

Payers have to piecemeal so much of what they do that it’s easy to forget: members don’t see their healthcare that way. While you might have to pull information from several sources to give them everything they need, members should be able to find it all in one place. If they have to jump around and navigate between tools to manage their care, they’re going to make you walk them through it every time.

Coordinated healthcare isn’t the norm for payers, but when you see how it benefits both you and your members, you’ll see why it should be.

Provide maximum self-service options

In 2003, the average cost for a human resources staff member to manually enroll an employee in benefits was $109.48. The average cost for an employee to enroll online via self-service was $21.79.

That was 15 years ago, before the first iPhone, before mobile apps, and before payers had the digital tools we have today.

By providing maximum self-service options, you encourage members to play a more active role in their healthcare. When members can manage their care on their own, and they interact with your services enough to understand them without help, it reduces the cost to you and more importantly, results in healthier members.

Don’t forget about healthy members

If you don’t engage your healthy members, they won’t remember what they pay you for, let alone how to use your services when they need them.

Give healthy members a reason to use your portal. The best member portals integrate with virtual coaching, help your members craft a personal wellness plan, and provide the motivation they need to stay healthy. If you help members identify bad habits and teach them how to overcome those habits, your portal can provide the benefit of preventive care.

Member-focused portals like these also work with the devices your members already use to track their health and fitness goals. They can sync their progress trackers and motivational challenges, and connect to a valuable online community with custom content with actionable recommendations based on their goals and health needs.

Keep your member portal relevant

Imagine if your mailbox was full of somebody else’s mail. Or if everyone in your contact list changed their phone numbers and didn’t tell you. Either situation would be frustrating, confusing, and pretty uncomfortable.

That’s how your members feel when your portal is full of irrelevant or outdated information. You can’t take the shotgun approach to providing care information, and when it comes to your provider directories, you can’t afford to keep outdated information on your website.

Use splash screens to personalize your members’ experience with information that pertains to their current goals and needs. Every time someone visits your portal, it should reinforce the value of their health plan.

Engage your members where they’re at

Most healthcare payers struggle to keep their members engaged with their services. 

Too often, that’s because payers try to connect with members in “our world,” not theirs. If you want to provide better care, lower your costs, and create healthier members, you need to master the art and science of member engagement.

We created a free ebook to do just that. The Art and Science of Member Engagement is your straightforward guide to providing member-focused care.