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Medicare Consumers Prefer Phone Calls from Health Plans

Medicare consumers prefer analog communications from their health plans instead of texting or using member portals.

Medicare beneficiaries prefer analog communications

Source: Thinkstock

By Thomas Beaton

- Medicare consumers tend to prefer traditional phone calls or mailings over digital engagement strategies such as text messaging or using a member portal, according to a new Healthmine survey.

Forty-eight percent of Medicare consumers aged 65 and older said they prefer to use the phone to communicate with their health plans compared to just 31 percent who were interested in emailing, texting, or using a mobile application.  Only 21 percent expressed a preference for mailing information back and forth.

Most Medicare consumers feel as if digital engagement tools do not provide the same level of service and information as speaking to a representative on the phone, the survey revealed.

Only 21 percent of Medicare beneficiaries feel as though digital portals answer their questions most of the time. Another 31 percent said that portals answer their questions only some of the time.

Thirty-three percent said that portals never answer any questions they have about their health plans.

While older beneficiaries tend to prefer the phone, younger Medicare consumers were more open to digital communication techniques.  Just ten percent of Medicare beneficiaries under 64 chose the phone as their primary means of communication.  Seventy percent preferred texting, emailing, or other online methods.

Another consumer survey from Healthmine emphasized the importance of improving digital communication for health plan consumers under the age of 65 who are not eligible for Medicare.

This group of health plan consumers reported a significant lack of price transparency tools for provider visits (38 percent) and prescription drug costs (37 percent), and expressed a need for year-round communication to help with chronic disease management and related screening services.

“Most members are either disconnected from, or rarely visit their health plans on social media and member portals,” the survey said. “Additionally, many members feel they are missing valuable guidance from their plans around digital health data and price transparency.”

The divide illustrates the importance of meeting preferences of multiple types of consumers and staying ahead of the digitalization curve.

"Despite how plan members prefer communication, plans must go digital.  Member communication with the plan, whether via phone or digital, needs to be documented and captured so a plan can help provide timely health recommendations,” said Bryce Williams, President and CEO of Healthmine.

“Our team has managed call centers that capture the information from every call, and we can often spot members' needs to help close gaps in care – that often translates into better health outcomes and savings for the members and the plan,” Williams added.

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