6 Ways Health Plans and TPAs Can Embrace the Mobile Revolution

man on bike, with phoneWhen the iPhone came out in 2007, it was a novelty. Today, smartphones are more like a necessity. Most Americans have them, and they spend an average of five hours a day on mobile devices.

Mobile devices are ubiquitous. There are more than 24,000 types of Android devices alone. Health plans and TPAs can’t afford to treat this technology like a novelty anymore. Still, healthcare is lagging behind almost every other consumer-facing industry when it comes to mobile.

Many health plans and TPAs treat member portals like an afterthought–a concession to a small number of members who prefer digital solutions. And it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because it results in lackluster tools that no one uses.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

You can provide the same kinds of mobile experiences members already have with everything else—the kind of experience they expect.

Here’s how.

1. Responsive design

People now browse the Internet on mobile devices more than computers. But many web-based experiences are still designed for computer screens. So when someone views the website on their mobile device, the screen shrinks until it’s barely readable, and people have to zoom and scroll and squint to find what they need.

Not to mention, it makes any website look sketchy and outdated–not qualities you want people to associate with their health insurance plan.

It’s such a cumbersome experience that Google even penalizes websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. So when people are shopping around for health insurance and they turn to Google, they’re going to find mobile-friendly sites first. So if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, the 355,000 people searching for “health insurance” and the 37,000 people searching for “health insurance quotes” every month are going to find your competitors first.

But more than that, your current members are going to get frustrated. Instead of resolving their health insurance-related issues on their own on the web (like they would do for most other things), they’re going to call you.

The answer to this problem is responsive design. Responsive designed websites adapt to fit whatever screen someone is viewing them on.

This is the most basic step healthcare payers can take towards “going mobile,” but if you want members to use your website for anything, it’s a must.

2. Mobile apps

Of the five hours per day that people spend on mobile devices, more than 90 percent of that time is in apps. People already use apps for recording and monitoring their health, tracking their progress towards goals, and learning about wellness. Healthcare payers have a huge opportunity to use custom health apps to deliver reliable wellness information and personalized health services.

For members, a healthcare mobile app means all of their services and wellness information are just a tap or two away.

For health plans and TPAs, it means you can provide a more immersive digital experience, your services get a more prominent space in your members’ lives, and you can use specialized features like push notifications to keep them engaged. (Of course, it also means less time and resources required to answer phone calls from your members—because it lets them answer their own questions with the app.)

3. Text messaging

Whether it’s for simple tasks like retrieving passwords or receiving alerts, people are already used to receiving text messages from organizations they have relationships with. And text messages are a lot more visible than other communications. Consumers are 76 percent more likely to read a text message than an email. And with the Healthx Mobile Engagement Suite, 98 percent of members view the text messages they receive from our customers.

Health plans and TPAs can use text messaging to send appointment reminders, proactive health and wellness information, and other alerts that link directly to specific websites, content, or contacts.

4. Telemedicine

When the services your members need aren’t available locally, they may have to travel for hours to see a specialist. Telemedicine solves this problem. With telemedicine, you can help make services more accessible to your members, ensuring that they get the expertise they need without taking a whole day off work or stressing about other arrangements like childcare. All they have to do is connect with a specialist virtually.

Telemedicine connects your members to providers via mobile devices, so they can get the services they need wherever they are. It’s most helpful for patients with chronic conditions and services like follow-up appointments and managing medications.

5. Self-service healthcare

Digital solutions like member portals and mobile apps allow members to manage their healthcare the same way they manage their bank accounts, investments, communications, shopping, and everything else: by themselves. Healthcare is complicated, but that shouldn’t stop you from striving to move to the same self-serve model consumers experience in other industries.

Your members don’t want to have to call you to manage their services. Mobile devices have trained us to expect the do-it-yourself approach to be available for most basic tasks, especially when it comes to handling our own information and accounts.

This expectation goes beyond simply having a member portal or mobile app. Health plans and TPAs need to rethink the way people experience their healthcare, and find innovative ways to answer questions, provide services, and proactively engage their members digitally.

6. Promote your digital solutions

It doesn’t matter how polished your member portal is or how versatile your mobile app is if no one uses them. “If you build it, they will come” is not a good strategy for member engagement. If member engagement is important to you, you need to actually tell your members about the digital options you have available.

And it’s not enough to tell them one time. A single form or email isn’t going to cut it. You need to balance mass communications with a personal touch, encouraging your sales agents, service reps, and even providers to point members to your digital solutions.

When health plans and TPAs don’t promote their digital solutions, their adoption rates and utilization rates will continue to disappoint them, and their service reps will continue answering thousands of calls that their members don’t need to make.

What’s your plan for member engagement?

If you already have digital tools for members to manage their healthcare, and they aren’t using them, the tools might not be the problem. It might be your strategy.

But you can change that.

There are proven tactics health plan and TPAs can use to increase member engagement. We created a free guide that provides an overview of ways to promote your digital solutions and a checklist to help you develop your own member engagement plan.

Get your copy of How to Make a Member Engagement Plan.