What health care plans can learn from TripAdvisor about member engagement

With health plans looking to be more efficient and helpful to their members, their online portals and mobile apps have become more important.  But, they aren’t always as useful as they should be. In essence, the health plan’s digital platform should display information relevant to individuals about their benefits and their transactions, while also providing information that support informed decisions about one’s individual health and healthcare choices.



In looking for best practice outside of healthcare, what other digital engagement platforms do the same things – and do them well? It might seem like a bit of a stretch, but how about TripAdvisor? In fact, during a recent speech on Healthcare Consumerism at AHIP, Frank Hone from Healthx mentioned the likelihood that brands like TripAdvisor and Yelp will look to expand their consumer-oriented model to healthcare. Why? Because these sites have created a culture of transparency and trust. They represent how consumers seek reviews and insights to make informed choices. And they demonstrate best practice in digital engagement.


How health plans can meet expectations for transparency and trust

To meet the needs of today’s consumers, health plans and other payers will need to guide their members toward meaningful data sources – and also help them use those data effectively. This will require a robust digital engagement strategy to build their relationship with members.


Let’s take a closer at TripAdvisor for some ideas on ways to do that:


Provide information just when it’s needed 
TripAdvisor focuses on two kinds of people: those planning well in advance and those who are arriving at a location figuring out what to do on the spot. Consider how you can refine your digital engagement strategy to reach both types of decision-makers.

Organize content around themes and preferences
A typical travel site organizes content by type (such as flight or hotel) and location. TripAdvisor also provides a way to browse content by themes (such as beaches and museums) and preferences (for example, eco-friendly hotels and B&Bs).

Create community rules that build trust
TripAdvisor has grown because of the people who contribute to it. Without user-generated content, it would be just another place to reserve a hotel room. But more important, their community rules give users greater trust in the reviews they’re reading.


Why is this transition difficult for health care plans?

From restaurants and hotels to cars and colleges, nearly every other industry has some type of digital platform for transparency and insight. However, health plans have been slow to move in this direction for two reasons.


First, privacy concerns keep health plans reactive instead of proactive. It takes creativity to balance the need for privacy with the desire to be transparent and informative with members. The issue isn’t just HIPAA. It’s also the lack of consumer experience within many health plans.  They tend to develop consumer messaging the same way they communicate to their colleagues in the industry.


Second, health plans have not traditionally viewed their members as customers.  More recently, they have begun talking about “consumer-centric” strategies and plan designs – but most haven’t really changed how they actually operate. Now that the balance of power is shifting from companies to consumers, the mindset of “we’ve always done it that way” will not work. Health plans will be stuck in the past if they don’t make a shift and react to customer wants and needs.


Digital engagement strategies can be difficult to design and develop. But when you look at how other industries and their digital platforms engage consumers online, several best practices do stand out. The challenge for health plans is to apply these practices to their digital engagement plans, and do so with consistency and conviction. Or the consumer do her shopping elsewhere.


Chuck Rolfsen is Chief Revenue Officer for Healthx. He helps Medicaid health planscommercial health plans and other Healthx clients develop strategies to streamline administrative processes and improve the quality of care.