One word describes the state of US health plan digital strategists at the end of 2013: exhausted! The October 1, 2013 open enrollment milestone for the public exchanges became not an event but an epic saga. Integration failures, wobbly deadlines, and substandard policies that became the walking dead stymied large numbers of potential plan buyers, who either gave up or stood on the sidelines. But through a lot of persistence, 8 million Americans had managed to enroll in the public exchanges by mid-April 2014.

But with the enrollment process behind them, these tired digital strategists can’t rest. It’s time to shift attention from getting customers to keeping them. And not surprisingly, what matters to consumers when it comes to picking health plans is whether their doctors are “in-network”. But other practical aspects of the health insurance experience also matter, like:

  1. Ease of resolving problems. When it comes to handling the nit-natty issues of plan maintenance issues like claims and payments, consumers want easy. That means that health plans have to make it easy for them to view their payment history, get their individual plan bills paid, monitor claims status, and access statements and tax documents online and increasingly through a plan’s mobile site, especially for that critical “young and healthy” segment.  
  2. Written information like bills and statements is easy to understand. Sadly, health plan bills and explanation of benefit statements are laden with plan-speak, arcane diagnostic codes, and a jumble of dates on these artifacts that cause consumer heads to spin. No surprise, one of the top calls into insurance websites is from consumers seeking assistance with understanding their bills. But even through plans are attempting to simplify these types of written information and introducing helpful interactive bill and policy explanation tools, consumers are still taking up valuable contact center resources as they look to validate information they find—or worse—can’t find online.
  3. The plan’s website is easy to use. Nearly 20 years into the PC-Internet era, consumers have been trained to look online first. And the expectations that they have about their health plan online experiences are not groomed by experiences with other health insurers, but instead are being shaped by the likes of Amazon, Facebook, and Kayak. That means that health plans have to reach outside their peer groups to see how their digital servicing experience is being influenced.  

I’ll be exploring the online health plan service experience in a webinar next week with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island and ACI Worldwide. Want to know more or join us? Just click here