Consumers are now the fastest growing payer in the U.S. Their perceptions of the healthcare customer experience are now driving market realities and shaping brand engagement and service delivery standards. For this reason, it has become imperative that insurers take the time to understand consumer mindsets related to healthcare.
The National Research Corporation (NRC Health) conducted a study in 2015 of 3,000 consumers. Entitled “The New Payer,” the study missioned to identify the key consumer mindsets along the healthcare consumer to member journey.
What the study discovered was that consumers go through a three-stage thought pattern when making a healthcare decision. These stages are known as the three consumer C’s: Confusion, search for Convenience and concerns of Cost. Not a good customer experience summary to say the least! So, how can insurers begin to replace these common negative emotions with positive, value-building experiences? By delivering simplicity, convenience and cost transparency.
1. Simplicity: Increasing Awareness & Articulating Value
Insurers can begin to reduce confusion by establishing themselves as trusted guides in the plan selection process. Nine in ten consumers reported that they would appreciate a singular guiding force to help educate and simplify their benefits selection decision. Consumers want a healthcare hero to come to their rescue and direct them to right choice, and the plan that arrives first with the right walk-through tools and support will be the one to establish upfront trust and loyalty. From health plan terminology definition resources and educational videos, to fully personalized plan selection guides, items such as these can drive selection by showcasing that your brand is committed to taking the complexity out of healthcare and creating consumer confidence. It shows that you put the consumer before profits to help them make the decision that’s most right for them.
Another way in which health insurers can help minimize confusion is by better articulating their unique value proposition in their advertising and marketing campaigns in order to build brand familiarity prior to annual enrollment. According to the study, quality is at the top of consumers’ list of health plan selection factors, but how health insurers define their quality and prove their value needs work.
Health insurers must better communicate what exact set of benefits make up their quality and to which consumers they are most beneficial. They must build a unique brand identity that makes the consumer feel that the organization is less ivory tower and more so a community of likeminded individuals that reflects their personal values of family and wellbeing. This means more consistent and simplistic marketing that hones in on one or two real brand differentiators, as opposed to campaigns that give a laundry list of attributes that bare little difference from competitors and leave the consumer with little to grasp onto. It also means marketing beyond traditional channels and moving to where consumers most frequently spend their time—on the Web. Creating new service value is only as good as the promotion of it. Insurers must leverage the speed, influence and agility of social media as consumers, even in healthcare, look to social media and online reviews to drive their selection. They must utilize and incentivize the early adopters of their innovations to be their advocates and spread their experiences on social media and YouTube to influence the general buying mass.
2. Convenience: Leveraging Non-Traditional Settings & Personalized Content
One way to address the demand for convenience is by recognizing that consumerism is pushing the care experience outside of traditional healthcare confines and into the places consumers live and work. By providing an array of useful benefits that pertain to daily life, such as discounts on local gym memberships or healthy food products at nearby retailers, a healthcare brand can extend its reach outside of the traditional healthcare experience and into the lives of everyday consumers. While not all organizations may have the resource to build a loyalty program from the inside, partnering with valued brands from other industries provides a great alternative. What non-healthcare businesses would make a great program partner? According to consumers, the top three preferred partners are grocery stores (42%), restaurants (21%), and pharmacies (15%)—all with a clear connection to the healthcare market.
An additional way to deliver convenience is through enhanced information and education. Nearly all consumers admit to having little understanding of the healthcare world. Despite this admitted lack of knowledge, seven in ten feel that they are personally responsible for managing their own health. Consumers have developed a “do it yourself” mentality towards healthcare in response to a history of receiving little, if any, personalized information and guidance from their health plan. Unfortunately, this do-it-yourself mentality isn’t creating healthier consumers, evidenced by increasing obesity and diabetes rates. Insurers must step up to the plate and play a greater role in personalized care management – transitioning from engaging only during episodic periods of illness, to continually delivering 1:1 health and wellness support.
3. Transparency: Providing Upfront Pricing & Expense Management Tools
Only one in five consumers finds it easy to compare cost and quality together during the decision process. While some insurers may believe that transparent pricing is healthcare’s race to the bottom, that notion is far from true. Savvy providers will use price as an opportunity to better define their quality and highlight their value to justify higher costs – they will use price as a brand differentiator.
Meeting the demand for more transparent pricing must stretch far beyond the initial selection process though. One in ten consumers has experienced a deductible hike in the last year and the majority of consumers have a deductible over a $1,000. Consumers need healthcare financial planning tools that can enable them to better plan their out-of-pocket expenses, meet their deductible, submit and track claims and understand how to interpret their EOBs.
With 53% of consumers reporting that they would be likely to visit a price comparison healthcare site if one was made available, the desire to better understand healthcare costs in order to more effectively predict, plan and choose is very real. Insurers must meet this desire to help consumers make smarter, more cost-effective healthcare choices by investing in innovative healthcare expense management applications and services. While it may seem like a lofty investment in a time of decreasing GPR’s, doing so will encourage the third of consumers who avoid necessary healthcare treatments due to “perceived” costs to get the care they need and in many cases, can indeed afford.
As the study nicely concluded, “Those who embrace the healthcare’s fastest growing payer, seeing their expectations as opportunities rather than problems, will build lasting consumer relationships that transcend episode care to build trust and loyalty—and market share—all while making healthcare a better place.”
Value is in the eye if the beholder, but key determinates of value will undoubtedly be simplicity, convenience and transparency.
To learn how Cierant can help evolve your business’s marketing and member engagement strategies to deliver new value and convenience to your consumers, please call 203-731-3555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.