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Top 5 Ways Commercial Payers Could Boost Consumer Engagement

Consumer engagement involves ensuring greater price transparency, patient outreach, and improving communication channels.

By Vera Gruessner

Consumer engagement is an important factor that commercial healthcare payers may need to address in order to keep a loyal customer base throughout future open enrollment periods. Some health insurance companies have worked to address consumer engagement such as the Pittsburgh-based UPMC Health Plan, which has unveiled a store where representatives will answer questions about coverage and help members enroll, according to a company press release.

Patient Engagement

The way this new store will improve consumer engagement is by offering wellness screenings and other services through the UPMC Mobile Health Team. The health plan will offer blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and bone density checks as well as offer members flu shots.

Additionally, the payer is looking to improve patient health outcomes and consumer engagement through more patient education by partnering with providers of imaging services, cancer care, cardiovascular disease treatment, and more.

“Various health providers from UPMC will be available for information, including UPMC Magee-Women's Hospital education, midlife and imaging centers; UPMC CancerCenter; UPMC Center for Engagement and Inclusion; UPMC Sports Medicine; and UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. UPMC Health Plan health coaches will also be available to provide wellness advice and tips,” the press release stated.

Creating stronger communication channels

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Any consumers who need their questions answered about the public health insurance exchanges or their personal coverage will be able to speak with representatives at the Monroeville Mall store. Questions about Medicare and Medicaid coverage along with the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will also be answered.

“We are happy to invest in the community and offer a more convenient, comfortable and comprehensive experience at this new location,” said Marybeth Jenkins, Chief Operating Officer at UPMC Health Plan.

Healthcare payers could also improve their consumer engagement by offering more customer service avenues and strengthening communication channels. A major method for improving consumer engagement and creating a more patient-centered environment is to enhance price transparency.

Price transparency

A PwC report stated that hospitals, for example, could follow the lead of the retail industry in terms of price transparency. Health plans that work with their provider networks to boost price transparency could potentially retain more consumers over the long-term.

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Offering tools that show the price of different services within their provider network would help health plan members choose the most cost-effective solutions. Price transparency would lead to a decrease in medical costs as well as greater patient satisfaction.

Patient outreach efforts

Some other methods for improving consumer engagement and patient retention could be through more outreach efforts, use of patient portals, and transparent, user-friendly medical billing systems. Engaging patients through outreach may include sending mailings to remind them to get screenings, childhood immunizations, yearly check-ups and flu shots.

Also, payers could work with their provider network and the employers they contract with to potentially create a mobile health team. Mobile teams could bring medical supplies in a van to certain locations and provide a simpler system to check in with patients at their place of work.

Implementing member portals

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Payers can also implement member portals in which reminders could be sent directly to members and questions about coverage could be answered in a faster and more streamlined manner. One survey from Care Cloud illustrated that 73 percent of those polled claimed that having access to electronic health records such as through patient portals would boost their overall satisfaction. Clearly, access to patient portals is sought by health plan members.

“I would say that we - the collective we in healthcare - are still catching up to what folks are already doing [in other industries] from a technology perspective,” Ryan Rossier, Vice President of Platform Solutions at Medullan, told “From a contextual awareness perspective, with customer service being one of the key channels, it is as simple as ensuring that profile information is shared across departments.”

“The example that I have is working with USAA. We have them for car insurance. The ability for them to say ‘Hello Ryan,’ which, as simple as that is, makes a difference in the conversation that you're having with folks,” Rossier said.

Payers will need to incorporate effective technological solutions when it comes to communicating with customers and answering questions through member portals.

User-friendly patient billing

Once again, price transparency through patient billing systems can help with patient retention. Transparent and easy-to-use billing systems that enable consumers to manage their out-of-pocket costs are important for payers in terms of reducing healthcare spending and improving satisfaction.

To recap, payers could improve consumer engagement through better communication channels, mobile health teams that offer wellness services, greater price transparency, patient outreach, implementing member portals, and creating transparent billing systems.


Dig Deeper:

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How Healthcare Information Technology Boosts Member Engagement


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