Customer Experience and Design

The Most Compelling Case for Building Member Loyalty

I’ve been working on some projects lately where I am giving advice to health plans attempting to take advantage of market forces and grow their member loyalty strategies in kind. It’s not only my job to know our own target market (them) but also to be intimately familiar with their target market (you) as well. Navigating this brave new world of health insurance is a daunting task.

However, the rewards are real for the member-centric leaders that emerge. Nearly 50% of customers are willing to pay more for customized health plans. So, I’m often asked, “What are the best ways to engage members and customize services?” Popular research provides us with a few options. Personalized customer service will emerge as a major source of healthcare differentiation, much like in other industries. To succeed, health insurers must use insight-driven health to better understand the expectations of unique and valuable customer segments and how to best enhance customer relationships to impact revenue growth.

This goes beyond the typical tactics of building a cadre of knowledgeable representatives, having convenient services hours, and a single point of contact for members. Heck, I even know some leaders, like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, that have invested in retail stores to provide that personal touch. However, if I was forced to wager over the best way that health plans could partner with members to build loyalty it would be this:

“Make it easier for me to understand the healthcare services I am consuming.”

Personally, I’m a curious lass of at least average intelligence. So what’s wrong with me if I can build a data warehouse but I can’t understand a healthcare invoice? Every year when it comes time to make my healthcare choices a bewildered daze comes over me. When I’m faced with a medical decision, and I need to make the best choice for my health and for my pocketbook, why do I feel like a high school kid that just hit a seemingly unanswerable question on the SAT?

Healthcare choices are some of the most important ones we make as individuals, so why do most members feel like they are taking a chance at the roulette wheel? How loyal would those members then be to a health insurance plan that removed all of that anxiety and provided a lit path towards the best decisions? See what I am getting at here?

This is why I was thrilled to read, “Healthcare price transparency comes to your smartphone,” where Ron Shrinkman takes us on a quest toward hospital price transparency. You see, there is a little known venture in Nashville called the Healthcare Blue Book. This company gathers data from the self-insured and a variety of payers (read: their clients) to try and determine the fair-market value for various healthcare services around the country. Here’s where it gets good: Healthcare Blue book has introduced a mobile app for both iPhone and Android.

Problem Solved? Not Quite.

Those of us that are not members of Healthcare Blue Book can still look up local prices by zip code. However, it’s not customized to my specific needs. I know my health insurance company has more reliable data. So, here’s the thing. You’re a health plan trying to gain consumer loyalty, and there are available technologies that could use data you already have about your members and the real cost of services available to them. You could provide me with the fair price for care based on my personal preferences (location, health history, etc.) in seconds. I don’t know about you, but that would make me super loyal to my health plan.

If you’re interested in learning more about collaborative health technologies, please stop by Booth #301 at Oracle OpenWorld 2012. I will be giving live demonstrations of “Connected Care and the e-Patient,” highlighting patient use of the Internet, social media and handheld devices to enhance their health and meet their demands for electronic medical record access, doctor competency scores, and hospital infection rates.

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Melody Smith Jones

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