Now more than ever, health plans are recognizing the value of cutting-edge health plan portals. They can increase member engagement, reduce administrative costs, and make you stand above the competition.
There are plenty of third-party vendors out there with web portals, apps, and other digital tools to fill this need in your organization. Still, many health plans prefer to build their health plan portals in-house. They may think that’s the best way to maintain control and ensure that the portal does everything that they need it to. Or maybe they didn’t see a third-party system that integrated with their tools.
Those things are worth considering, but if you’re trying to decide whether you should build or buy your portal, you should know: there are a lot of good reasons to go with a vendor.
Here are five advantages of using a third-party health plan portal vendor.
1. The hardest part is already done
You lose money every month that you don’t have a portal (or you have an outdated one that doesn’t serve your members). Your members keep calling you or showing up at your office to request basic forms and complete simple transactions. Their gaps in care are growing wider.
Building a portal is a huge undertaking. It takes months—or even years—to create digital tools that meet consumers’ ever-increasing standards. And that’s not including the time it takes to hire your team or assemble the infrastructure you need to support your new portal.
But a vendor has already done all of that. They have a huge network of servers, routers, data centers, and security tech in place. And they aren’t building your portal system from scratch—they’re working from a template they can configure and customize to meet your needs.
By using a third-party system, you’ll launch your new health plan portal a whole lot faster, because the vendor has already done the hardest part for you.
2. Vendors have to keep quality high to stay competitive
One of the biggest challenges of building your portal in-house is that consumer expectations are always increasing. It’s not good enough to simply have a portal. Because your members aren’t just comparing you to other health plans—they’re comparing you to the other organizations they interact with online—like Amazon, Uber, eBay, and even their bank.
Virtually every industry is prioritizing digital interactions, and that means your members are continually seeing the advantages of managing their own information and completing transactions online. They’re also growing accustomed to standards a lot of health plans aren’t equipped to meet.
Third-party portals are constantly competing to deliver the best digital experience for members, providers, and health plans. They can’t afford to peddle tacky-looking portals, outdated systems, or slow mobile apps because their entire business depends on their ability to blend speed, intuitive design, and useful functionality.
It takes a lot of work to build a top-tier health portal and the bar is only getting higher. Vendors have already done that work—and they’re committed to staying on top—because when you look good, they look good.
3. You don’t have to pay for more staff
In order to build your own portal you need your own team of developers, systems administrators, database administrators, quality control testers, cybersecurity experts, and other professionals.
Even if you already have people in those positions, building and maintaining your own portal will require more people full-time. This isn’t just a task or a temporary project you can shift to your existing teams. You’re creating your own software product.
Third-party health plan portals come with subscriptions and fees, but that won’t affect your budget nearly as much as paying salaries and benefits for a whole new division of employees.
4. Cybersecurity isn’t only on your shoulders
Portal vendors can’t afford to have someone breach their systems. A major hack could shatter their reputation and destroy their business—not to mention the fact that it puts people’s most delicate and personal information at risk. That’s why these vendors tend to invest so much in cybersecurity personnel, training, and maintenance (including paying people to try and penetrate their systems.)
They’ll also often work with the health plans they partner with to ensure that everyone is following the latest best practices. If one of your employees falls victim to a phishing scam, and as a result, a hacker gets into your portal system, it’s not the vendor’s fault, but it’s not a good outcome for either of you.
But take the vendor out of the equation, and the onus is completely on you to keep your members’ private information safe. If something goes wrong, there’s no one else to share the responsibility.
That means you need to be the one protecting your portal system with state-of-the-art cybersecurity. And as hackers learn new ways to overcome your portal’s defenses, you need to continually invest in better security.
Or you could focus on securing the systems you already have and let a vendor worry about turning your portal into an impenetrable fortress.
5. Portals are their specialty
No matter how much money you invest in building your own portal, that will only ever be a secondary priority for your organization. When you explain what your organization does, building health plan portals will never be more than a subset of what you do best.
It’s not that it’s not related to delivering a quality healthcare experience. It’s just not what your organization is currently optimized for. On the other hand, vendors have organized their whole business around this one aspect of healthcare.
They don’t have to worry about actually managing someone’s care, navigating compliance standards, or keeping people’s information current. They can give their full attention to creating the best possible health plan portal, and in the process, help you do all those other things better.
So should you buy a third-party health plan portal?
Every health plan has to navigate this decision for themselves. Your organization’s unique circumstances are what will determine how doable it is to build your own portal system. Whether you build or buy, your health portal is a big investment, and your choice will have a huge impact on the future of your organization and the quality of your members’ care.
In our free ebook, Should You DIY Your Health Plan Portal?, you’ll find questions every health plan needs to explore when making this important decision.
Get your free copy of Should You DIY Your Health Plan Portal? here.