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Report: Most health plans are struggling to provide a consistent online experience for members

The health insurance industry has historically struggled with low rates of customer satisfaction and loyalty. A new report suggests health plans are doing little to improve their standing with consumers, and this is based on insurance executives’ own admissions of their failure.

the report, released Wednesday by customer engagement firm Smart Communications, surveyed 119 health insurance executives during February and March. It found that the digital experiences health insurers offer their members are disjointed because insurers prioritize speed-to-market over usability.

This lack of regard for user-friendliness has forced many health plan members to opt for offline channels for customer service. Health plan executives acknowledged that their digital experiences often create more questions than answers, and agreed that members feel frustration when using these online tools have led to an increase in customer support calls. Still, the report cited Forrester research showing more than half of health plan members were dissatisfied with their phone interactions.

These suboptimal member experiences are continuing, due in part to insurers’ failure to track members’ online journeys from beginning to end. Less than 40% of insurers track in-journey and end-of-journey metrics, suggesting that insurers do not understand what members believe a successful online experience looks like.

At the end of members’ online journeys, about one-third of health plans said they track the number of times members call about an issue, customer effort score and retention. The metrics insurers are focusing on showing that they are failing to measure the moments within a member’s online experience and instead focusing on end-of-journey results.

Some insurers believe their lack of visibility into customers’ online journeys could be negatively impacting their business metrics. A full 47% of health plans said that they are not tracking members’ sentiment enough to understand their feelings as they engage in digital experiences, and 48% of plans said they do not have the data to understand how members’ frustration with these experiences are impacting key performance metrics.

Most health plans expressed an eagerness to improve member engagement online. However, the report shows they may be avoiding the hard work necessary to truly engage with members and instead are focusing on easily-achieved targets.

For instance, over the next three years, health plans said they intend to improve members’ digital experiences by focusing primarily on the following three areas: consolidating apps and systems (68%), centralizing preference management to ensure members are reached via their preferred channel (65%), and improving language clarity in communications (59%).

However, instead of focusing on the low-hanging fruit, insurers should channel their efforts toward initiatives that will create seamless and easy-to-comprehend online journeys for their customers, the report urged.

Some health plans are starting to turn the ship around. For example, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota partnered with Castlight Health on Wednesday to launch a care navigation solution for its customers, which aims to simplify members’ digital experiences by providing access to all their health information in a single online location.

Efforts like the one pursued by BCBS of Minnesota should be pursued sooner rather than later, according to James Brown, CEO of Smart Communications. He pointed out giving members more personalized and relevant online experience will help insurers build trust and loyalty among their customers.

Photo: Aleksei Naumov, Getty Images

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