Why healthcare payers need a mobile first strategy

Think about all the places where your members want to access information about their benefits. They’re not just at home or at work, using a desktop computer or laptop. They’re on the go, at the doctor’s office or pharmacy or even the Little League baseball diamond. And they’re likely using a mobile device. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life survey, two out of three Americans access the Internet on mobile phones. In addition, half of mobile phone users now rely on those devices as their primary means of accessing the Internet.*

If you want to connect members, you need to reach them on all of the Internet-connected devices they use, including smart phones and tablets. That’s why payers should have a mobile-first development approach for digital member engagement, including their member portal and mobile apps. (For more on digital engagement, read Frank Hone’s recent blog post, 5 ways to improve your digital member engagement.)

What is a mobile first strategy?

This term refers to the process of designing for the smallest screen (the mobile phone) first, and then scaling upto larger devices and computers. This is a 180-degree shift from the old way of doing things, when we would design for computers first and then scale down for phones and tablets.

However, mobile first is not just about design. It’s also about functionality. When you think mobile first, you push yourself to use the extra capabilities mobile devices offer, like GPS and fingerprint authentication. Again, the point is to design the ideal functionality for smart phones, and then scale down functionality for other (can I call them dumb?) devices.

Four must-haves for a mobile first strategy

At a bare minimum, you should incorporate:

1. Responsive design

Rather than creating separate desktop, smartphone, tablet, and other versions of your portal, a better option is to use a technique called responsive design. Among other benefits, responsive design puts an end to the debate on whether to develop a fully functional mobile site because it is focused on delivering the best user experience based on the size of the screen the member is using rather than the type of device. Since it is device-agnostic, only one version of the code must be developed and maintained instead of writing separate code for desktops and mobile devices. That alone will reduce your total cost of ownership while helping bring the portal to market faster.

2. Branded mobile app

Even if you have a mobile-friendly responsive website, providing an app can help you reach mobile users more effectively. Make sure your app reflects your brand and is available in the popular App Stores (Apple and Google). At the very least, your app should allow members to:

  • View eligibility, claims status, and accumulators
  • View plan descriptions
  • View EOBs
  • Order ID cards
  • Find a doctor
  • Contact your plan

3. Device functionality

Be sure to leverage the special capabilities mobile devices offer such as:

  • Biometric authentication – Rather than requiring members to remember their user name and password to access their benefit information, consider integrating use of the smartphone’s biometric capabilities (such as Apple’s Touch ID) to provide secure authentication and access.
  • GPS – If a member is searching for a provider while away from home, the mobile device’s GPS can be used by the portal or mobile app to find physicians or hospitals in the plan within a 10-mile radius of their current location. It can also provide directions.
  • Membership and ticketing – Rather than requiring users to log in to the mobile app or portal to view their digital member ID card, use membership and ticketing apps such as Apple Passbook (formerly known as Apple Wallet).
  • Data sharing – You can create an interface that allows the health and wellness data members save in personal health repositories such as Apple’s HealthKit to be retrieved and shared with physicians or care managers.
  • Payment – Rather than requiring a credit card, you can allow members to use mobile payment platforms like Apple Pay and Android Wallet to pay premiums and cover co-pays or deductibles.

With a little creativity you can offer any number of value-added benefits using these capabilities that are, quite literally, in the palm of your hand.

4. Short, scannable copy

The smaller the screen, the harder it is to read for long periods of time. Nobody wants to read long, scrolling blocks of content on a mobile device without a visual break. Use images or spaces to break up the monotony, and break up your content into smaller chunks that can be moved around and reflowed for responsive design.

A great user experience is key to digital engagement adoption and utilization. By putting the mobile experience first, you’ll meet the needs of your members better – and you could even lower your costs by consolidating to a single, responsive website.

*Source: http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/mobile-technology-fact-sheet/


Michael Gordon is the Chief Product & Strategy Officer at Healthx. He has over 23 years of software and information technology experience with extensive expertise in product development for healthcare payer organizations. His passion is developing innovative, disruptive solutions that will transform the healthcare industry.