Exchanges have ushered in a new era in health insurance that brings with it a new, empowered healthcare consumer. Faced with a wide array of options from competing providers, consumers are scrutinizing where and how they choose to spend their healthcare dollars like never before.
To help inform, prioritize, and rationalize what is often an emotionally-charged decision for themselves and their families, the first place most consumers turn when making a healthcare decision is the internet. And they expect the same level of ease when searching for healthcare services as they do when searching for the right car on Edmunds or the right flight on Kayak. Many visit price comparison sites like HealthCareBlueBook.com or FairHealthConsumer.org to ensure they’re getting the value and the experience they demand.
Caught between change and stagnation
It’s clear that insurers are making some changes to meet shifting consumer demands. For instance: updating and streamlining legacy IT systems, making it easier for consumers to make payments, manage their claims and records, or find in-network physicians. But what’s also clear is what hasn’t changed; namely, the way insurers go about engaging with and understanding their customers.
And the time to change is now. According to research by Accenture Health, by 2017, digital health startup funding in the U.S. will double to $6.5 billion. These are nimble companies that are innovating to meet consumers’ rapidly shifting healthcare demands. Amid this disruption and changing consumer behavior, traditional research methods – like touchpoint studies and predictive models, for example – seem slow, antiquated, and unreasonable in contrast; they could soon result in negative business outcomes. For health insurers, operating under the old research method status quo to measure and implement will cease to yield actionable results, let alone better outcomes, in today’s new healthcare landscape.
The evolution solution
For insurers, attracting, engaging, and retaining today’s empowered consumers means having a holistic view into consumers’ lives, and anticipating their shifting needs. But how, exactly, can that be accomplished?
By partnering with consumers themselves. Health insurers need to build ongoing relationships with consumers and explore their lives and all the factors that go into their healthcare decisions from their point of view, in real time (not just the touchpoints and moments where their lives intersect with their payer or provider). Consumers will readily share their experiences in trying to make an emotional decision because creating better healthcare outcomes is inherently in their best interest. They can – and want – to help healthcare companies differentiate among the competition and co-create solutions that deliver greater value and better outcomes.
Working with consumers is an opportunity for healthcare companies to operate their business with empathy, thereby truly meeting consumers’ needs – quickly and confidently – however fast those needs change. It will mitigate risks and enhance the likelihood of success in an otherwise uncertain environment that’s already undergoing disruption. By understanding what your consumers are thinking, feeling, and experiencing at each phase in the health insurance calendar, insurers can start to design services and experiences that deliver on – and exceed – the expectations of the new empowered consumer, and earn loyalty in an industry where loyalty has been historically absent.