Here’s a news flash: Healthcare consumers have the same wants and needs as consumers in other categories. For years, the industry treated them as though they were somehow different – that they didn’t care about cost or quality or value or timeliness. The truth is that healthcare consumers do care about those things. They just didn’t have the ability to make choices or the information needed to make them wisely. They were subjected to the arcane policies and occasional dysfunctions of a healthcare system that left them frustrated and generally underserved.
However, the balance of power is shifting. In particular, they want to interact with their health plan online and on their schedule – and in an environment that feels good to them. It’s important to think of members as consumers who regularly use self-service portals from retailers, financial services companies, travel companies, and other businesses in their daily lives. Those portals have set some high expectations for the user experience in terms of intuitive design, ease of use, ease of conducting transactions, ease of finding information, and other factors.
Payers can no longer put up a portal filled with difficult to access data and hard to use forms. They must deliver an experience that is seamless and aligned with how, where, and why members want use it. Here are some ways to do that:
1. Treat your member portal as more than a self-service channel
When writing requirements for your member portal, it’s easy to get caught up in the transactional side of the equation – the functionality you MUST offer to meet regulatory requirements and customer demands. Yet if members go onto the secure member portal and don’t find value, they are unlikely to come back – even if the capabilities expand later. A rich experience on the first encounter is far more likely to make your portal a go-to resource for your members. And, a consistently great experience will help drive your customer satisfaction rankings higher, which directly affects your bottom line.
2. Don’t let your silos show
When members click a link from your website to go to your portal, they shouldn’t feel as though they’ve moved from the earth to the moon. Instead, your portal should appear to be just another page on your website, with the same branding, graphics, format, color scheme, terminology, etc.
The same goes for third-party service integrations within your portal. Use single-sign-on and data integration to make the experience complete and seamless. Not every portal technology offers the level of flexibility and customization required to do that, so be sure to check for it before making a purchase.
3. Get personal
Customize your content based on member personae/type, demographics, eligibility and other factors such as compliance with federal or state regulations. The more you can personalize what members see immediately, rather than making them hunt through irrelevant information to find what they need, the better their experience will be.
4. Think mobile from the start
Until a few years ago, most websites were developed in a two-step process: build the desktop version first, and then add a mobile version later. However, prolific use of smartphones, tablets, and phablets has made that way of thinking obsolete. Rather than creating different versions of your portal, a better option is to use a technique called responsive web design. With responsive web design, the content and layout adapt to the type of device. The user doesn’t need to “pinch and zoom” to make a shrunken-down page readable or to make a little button clickable.
5. Optimize functionality for mobile
Your mobile-first approach should consider functionality as much as design. A great experience takes advantage of the special capabilities of mobile devices. For example, rather than requiring a user name and password to access the portal, consider tying in to the smartphone’s biometric capabilities (such as Apple’s Touch ID) to provide secure authentication and access. Or if a member is searching for a provider while away from home, the mobile device’s GPS can be used by the portal to find physicians or hospitals in the plan within a 10-mile radius of their current location.
In today’s fast-changing healthcare world, putting up any old portal and just expecting members to use it is a fast track to failure – and lost business. Your portal must provide more than information or access to forms. It must deliver an experience that is seamless and aligned with how, where and why members want use it.
Frank Hone is Vice President of Engagement for Healthx. Through product design input and engagement strategy services, Healthx helps healthcare payers drive adoption and utilization of healthcare consumerism solutions including member portals and mobile apps.