Health Care Consumer Benchmark Study 2020: Trust and the Opportunities It Creates

We recently finished our Annual Consumer Sentiment Benchmark Study. While there is a lot of interesting data and learnings, many of the same themes from previous years persist. One shines through for me most clearly: People want information about their health care choices from people and sources they trust.

This provides a tremendous opportunity for health plans to partner with their members and provider networks to deliver meaningful, actionable information that can drive change. Based on our data and experience, the three key areas I believe health plans should focus on first to drive change in health care are: the patient/provider relationship, driving engagement with members and building trust. These three pillars are the foundation upon which change can happen. I’ll go into more detail about each below.

Deepen Relationships with Provider Partners

First, health plans should increasingly bring providers into the experience with members. When we asked respondents who they trust among health care entities, 74% said they trust their primary care doctor. Enlisting doctors in conversations to help members understand their benefits, health care choices and digital tool options will have a huge impact. Health plans can give doctors’ offices access to personalized cost information based on their patients’ unique benefits coverage when making referrals, for example. Plans could also work with their providers to help them understand the tools that are available to members and provide them with educational materials about how to shop for and compare health care. Respondents in our survey said they would be 46% more likely to access their health plan’s treatment cost transparency tools when recommended by their doctor. A simple mention of a solution could have a significant impact on utilization.

Create Meaningful Engagements with Members

Second, plans must focus on driving engagement and utilization of transparency and guidance solutions. Granting access is not enough. While many people have been trained to start at their insurer’s website to see if their doctor is in network, a much smaller group utilizes powerful tools such as treatment cost estimators and personalized out-of-pocket estimates. Health plans need to not just talk about “consumerism” but behave like a consumer company and market the tools they have available for members accordingly. Tactics don’t have to be complicated. Something as simple as a dedicated email promotion works very well. For one of our clients, an email promoting their solution drove a 2073% increase in searches on their site in a single day. What’s more, there was an increase of more than 140% over the ensuing three-month period. Combine email with SMS and direct mail, and the effect is compounded further. Marketing works to drive engagement and plans have an opportunity to drive engagement and value with their members.

In this year’s survey, we saw that 60% of respondents are aware of transparency tools offered by their health plan, this is a 15% increase over our 2019 survey. Furthermore, we found that of that 60% who are aware of tools, 71% had actually used at least one of them in the past 12 months. Both of these data points reveal big steps in the right direction, but we’re not there yet. The next steps need to be increasing awareness among members even further to close that 40% gap and focusing on moving those ‘aware’ members toward regular as-needed use of all the tools they have available to take control their health care.

Build the Trust Necessary to Drive Success

Saving the most important point for last, health plans must continually work to build trust with their members. Two things the survey highlighted in particular that erode trust are when people think “you only want money off me” and “they often provide confusing information.” This is where the integration of providers into the experience and promoting existing guidance tools can move the needle. With providers, you are bringing in a highly trusted person into the mix. By engaging your guidance tools, assuming they are clear and provide actionable information, you are letting members know you are on their side and helping them make smarter choices. These two levers, when combined, could have a significant impact driving higher member satisfaction.

Building trust is not an easy task. But when health plans provide clear information and help their members understand their options – and have their doctor along side-by-side – trust will be built. And with trust, you earn the right to create deeper relationships with your members and providers and drive change.

To download the summary of the 2020 Health Care Consumer Benchmark Survey, click here. If you’re interested in exploring the topic of trust more in-depth, we also recently held a webinar with consumer experience expert Megan Burns to discuss this year’s survey and the importance of trust, especially during a pandemic. You can watch that webinar replay here.