Consumer-Centric Healthcare Has a Way to Go, Say Consumers

May 21, 2020 HMS

We’re learning a lot from the COVID-19 pandemic — namely, that we’ve still got a lot to learn.

As J.D. Powers’ 2020 U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study reveals, consumers are not entirely satisfied with the level of engagement they’re receiving from their health plans. Although that finding may not seem particularly staggering, the timing of this year’s study offers a key point of reference. Fielded from January through March 2020, the survey assessed consumers’ perception of their health plans’ handling of COVID-19, among other key indicators of engagement and overall experience.

The results were less than promising. According to the study, 60% of members said that “they were not contacted by their health plan with guidance or information related to COVID-19,” and 48% said that “their health plan has not shown concern for their health since the pandemic began.” Other key findings include:

  • Only 36% of members said their health plan acts in their best interest “always” or “most of the time.”
  • Only 25% of members view their health plan as a trusted partner in their health and wellness.
  • Although 75% of members are aware of telehealth, 54% do not understand if these services are included in their healthcare benefits. (This is based on additional J.D. Power research conducted March 15 to May 1, 2020, and is significant given the expansion of telehealth to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.)

“A Customer Engagement Problem”

Among its many revelations, J.D. Power’s study points to profound shortcomings in health plan consumer engagement, which is particularly concerning given the timeframe and context of the study. The importance of effective engagement to member experience and overall satisfaction is well documented; however, in the age of COVID-19 and social distancing, getting timely, accurate information to consumers is largely a matter of public health and safety — and can be the difference between a positive and negative outcome.

Although today’s crisis will ultimately be a mark in history, it has brought many of healthcare’s shortcomings to the forefront, presenting the opportunity to correct course as we enter a new, post-pandemic era. As J.D. Power notes in the study’s press release, an increasingly crowded health insurance marketplace makes it an industry ripe for disruption. It also makes it inherently consumer driven, emphasizing the need for healthcare organizations to become more consumer centric in order to attract and retain members, while hitting the triple aim of better health, care and cost.

Advancing the Shift Toward Consumer-Centric Healthcare

According to J.D. Power, “Proactive efforts by health plans to engage with members — by providing advice on how to control costs or helping to coordinate care — drive significant improvement in overall customer satisfaction.”

A global health crisis may be shining light on the importance of connecting with consumers when, where and how they can best be reached, but demand for consumer-centric healthcare will endure long after the pandemic subsides. If anything, the expected shift to a more virtual care environment in light of COVID-19 will make targeted, multichannel engagement ever more critical.

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