Humanizing Health Care to Keep Us Healthy

There we were. A room full of health care professionals. The presenter asked a question revealing the hard truth of consumer satisfaction in health care today: Would you recommend your health plan to your friends? The quiet in the room highlighted why health care is one of the least trusted sectors in the United States, according to research from Edelman.

The good news is that the situation isn’t dire. Consumer trust and satisfaction with health care are improving, although there is still plenty of work to do. Our team recently attended the AHIP Consumer Experience & Digital Health conference in Nashville, which felt like ground zero for sharing new approaches to consumer engagement and smart use of digital technologies to improve people’s satisfaction with their health care experiences. The rise of consumerism in health care and the use of new technologies provide our industry a tremendous opportunity to accelerate positive change that will benefit us all. Some of the conversations and insights that took place at the conference included:

Effective Communication Boosts Satisfaction

People don’t just want to hear from their health plan once a year during open enrollment. And they don’t want to be treated as conditions. What they want is value and authenticity. This puts pressure on health plans to understand their members better and deliver content that builds trust with people. Oscar Health does that many ways; one simple example is presenting the member’s Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) in plain English so non-health care experts can understand them.

Listening to members is one way to get those insights. The head of Salesforce’s Voice of the Customer efforts, Kristen Engelhardt, shared insights on how a company that today is known for its passionate customer base didn’t always have the dedicated effort to collect insights and make change internally. Her advice to health care professionals is that you don’t need to spend millions. It is possible to see huge returns, even by starting small. Change is hard, but find wins from listening to members and making incremental improvements.

Develop Deeper Insights to Improve Outcomes

Personalization expectations are higher than ever before. In practice, personalization should mean more than notifying a member that they have colonoscopy coming up. Health plans need to look at additional data sources. And perhaps incentivize members to share more information. Many members with chronic conditions aren’t adherent even though they know their lives are at risk. Why? Because we need to connect with people about what is important to them. Our industry needs to ask, learn, and then communicate differently.

Neal Sofian, former Director, Member Engagement, Premera Blue Cross, shared a story about a diabetic who wasn’t taking his insulin regularly. Once they learned the member was an avid fisherman who regularly fished with his family, they could change the interaction. The new message was ‘if you don’t take insulin, you won’t be able put on waders in six months’. The thought of not being able to fish with his grandkids was a more personal and meaningful motivator and made an impact.

Using Technology and Partnerships to Gain an Advantage

Collecting data is key to understanding. But it doesn’t stop with communications. Health care innovators are using big data trying to look at social determinant data points such as – geography, lifestyle, income, work type, and family to predict opportunities for improving health care and people’s lives. Some providers and plans are making huge investments to target chronic conditions. This upstream spending on technology can make huge impacts on results downstream.

But, the data you need isn’t always available if you’re going it alone. Many players are joining forces. While the news of CVS’ purchase of Aetna was one hot topic of the conference, there were many stories of how plans, providers, tech innovators and retailers are all partnering in new ways. Why? It isn’t just about new models of care. They each have different data sets that can be combined to make a stronger impact in consumer experiences and outcomes.

We all want good health. Consumer-focused engagement strategies are making health care more affordable, delivering better results and improving people’s experiences. So whether you’re a health plan, provider, tech company or otherwise, let’s keep putting people at the center of our work!