How many online accounts and mobile apps do you use on a regular basis? If you’re like most smartphone owners, you probably use fewer than 10 different apps per day, and about 30 apps per month.
Maybe you have specific apps or online accounts for every bill you pay. Or for managing your investments. Or communicating with specific groups of people.
Every online account or mobile app has a unique purpose, and we use them all differently.
Your members don’t use their portal the same way they might use a banking portal. For most people, their healthcare portal isn’t something they need to monitor on a regular basis. They use it inconsistently.
Some members might only use your portal once a year, in preparation for their annual physical. Or maybe they have several dependents on their plan, and they hop on once a month or so. Even members with chronic conditions probably don’t access it every day.
That means you have a lot fewer opportunities to make a good impression, and there’s more riding on those moments when your members use your portal. If it’s hard to find what they need or your portal’s capabilities are too limited, or if your portal doesn’t function properly, your members will just call you next time.
Or worse, they’ll avoid managing their plan altogether, and they’ll increase the gaps in their care.
A robust member portal can decrease gaps in care, increase member satisfaction, and lower your costs. But only if it has what your members need.
Here are six things members expect to be able to do in your portal.
1. Create a secure account
Account creation is a one-time deal. But it’s the first interaction your members will ever have with your portal, so it sets the tone for their experience. Is it hard to do basic tasks? Does it function properly or time out? Is it secure? How long does it take? How many steps are there?
This process has to be convenient, intuitive, secure, and fast. We live in a time when the vast majority of account creation is “self-serve.” Your members shouldn’t need to call someone or wait days to authenticate their other accounts. The whole process should take minutes or less, and if they have questions along the way, there should be clear links to anything they need.
And as long as your encryption is top-notch, you don’t have to sacrifice security for the sake of simplicity. You can make account creation painless without compromising the safety of your member’s personal information.
2. Communicate with you
When your members have questions, the portal should be the first place they go to find answers. Whether it’s in an app or online, they expect secure communication and a timely response.
Maybe they need to talk to one of your reps about their explanation of benefits (EOB). Or they need help understanding a claim, or they’re not sure where an amount on their bill came from. These are things they need you to answer, but they don’t always want to take 30 minutes out of their day to plan a time to call you—and you don’t want them to do that either.
Communicating through your portal allows both you and your members to message back and forth when it’s most convenient. This is the kind of communication your members have already come to expect from most of the organizations they interact with.
3. Find a provider in your network
Having a provider directory is great. But having a provider directory that’s organized around attributes your members care about is even better.
Your members don’t just want a list of all the providers in your network. They want to filter those providers based on the qualities that are most important to them. Maybe they want a female doctor, or they need to find a provider office within five miles of their home or work. Maybe they need a provider who speaks Spanish.
A robust provider portal with advanced filters will help your members make the best choices about where they receive their care and how they use your services. Your member portal should help them make informed decisions.
4. Receive relevant notifications
The best digital tools alert us when they should be opened. Facebook tells you when people interact with your posts. Amazon updates you about your orders. Whatever you use an app or online account for, you trust it to tell you when anything changes.
Your members want to know if there’s a new response to the message they sent you. Or if there are updates to their EOB. Or if their lab results are in.
If your portal doesn’t notify your members when there’s something they need to read or do, they probably aren’t going to receive that important information in a timely manner—remember, they don’t check your portal every day, and it’s unreasonable for you to expect them to.
Whether your portal generates app notifications, automated emails, or text alerts, it needs to be able to proactively communicate with your members so they stay up-to-date about their care.
5. Complete basic transactions
Your members don’t want to waste their time calling you to take care of things they can do themselves. And they shouldn’t need to dig through their emails to find instructions about how to complete basic requests.
Different members will focus on different tasks, and there are probably different actions you’d prefer they take.
Maybe they’re brand-new and need to request an ID card. Or it’s time to fill out their health-risk assessment. Or they made changes to their plan, and now they need to choose a different physician. Whatever those actions are, the first things members see in your portal should be the things they need to do.
You have valuable demographic data and their personal medical history. Plug that into your member portal, and you can keep the most relevant actions on the first page.
6. Manage their account
Virtually all accounts we have let us make changes on our own. Yet frequently with healthcare, we force members to manage their account through a third party. Someone else has to add a dependent, or they have to submit a form to change their last name when they get married.
Account management should be “self-serve” in your member portal—just as your members expect to find with every other account they have. Those may be service-related changes, like adding dependents, or they might be things like updating communication preferences, or checking the balance on a flexible spending account.
Your members want control. If you aren’t giving it to them, it forces them to come to you, and that means you’re wasting their time and yours.
Your member portal can’t do this alone
Your portal is just a vehicle. A taxi service that members pay for with their time. It has to take your members somewhere for it to be valuable. There have to be things for them to do there efficiently. And it has to be relevant to them, or it quickly starts to feel like a waste.
Most health plans already have access to advanced data and all the information their members need. But if your portal isn’t connected to that information, or it doesn’t leverage that data in useful ways, your portal is a taxi with no destination. And the longer your members aimlessly ride that taxi, the more frustrated they’ll become with your services.
In The Member Platform ebook, we explore the ways that an engagement platform helps your portal take members on a journey to better care and better health.
Download your free ebook, The Member Platform: Why Focusing on Portals is Holding You Back.