3 Steps to Take Now so Consumers Aren't Left Alone to Navigate Healthcare Enrollment

July 8, 2015 Ray Catudal

The CodeBaby avatargreatest inhibitor to online shopping is the absence of a pleasurable experience or some sort of consultation.

In general, face-to-face interactions with people are effective not only because they can provide information, be empathetic, and build rapport but also because the information is perceived as more accurate and is more likely to be believed. While the majority of the research backing this up is based on in-person engagement, the use of technologies like Intelligent Virtual Assistants and avatars are advanced enough to create the same experience online.

We need to start thinking of health insurance buying in the same terms as general online shopping. We are thinking a lot about the purchasing process at CodeBaby and will have more blog posts to come that look at how to get from where we are today to more of an Amazon-like buying process for health insurance. But, today’s post is more specific as I’ll look at how to start down the path of creating more engaging experiences in time for open enrollment in November. Following are a few ways to start creating a positive online buying experience for health insurance consumers.

Build an Engaging Member Portal

Based on research and our customers’ experiences, I believe IVAs can build relationships and help retain customers. An IVA or avatar alone won’t solve the problem; it needs to be part of a well-constructed communications campaign and an engaging member portal or account center experience. People benefit from portals that offer some sort of social interaction or consultation.

Image of information iconThe key is to develop an engaging portal now, prior to the actual open enrollment period. That way carriers and web brokers can invite people to meet their new personal advisor, the avatar, in preparation for the enrollment period. This will create a positive experience early.

Use Avatars or Intelligent Virtual Assistants

Being greeted and having an avatar available to help people re-enroll can be extremely helpful. Carriers try to leverage their brand name and loyalty to retain members, but in today’s health insurance world where benefits are mostly mandated, it’s hard to differentiate oneself from the competition and retain customers. It’s even more difficult to do that when consumers are equipped with savvy price comparison tools.

Avatars can help carriers and web brokers differentiate and educate. Furthermore, we have learned that the presence of a character can increase trust, but interactivity increases perceived realism and effectiveness, and strengthens and sustains trust, which is paramount when money and big decisions are at stake.

Create Campaigns

Email or print communication campaigns can drive consumers to a portal prior to open enrollment where they can engage with an avatar that advises them on upcoming changes or answers questions. In addition the IVA (or avatar) can tell you how to print ID cards, see if a certain doctor is in network or advise on preventative services. Avatars and interactive coaches can act as a health coach for people.

Image of Customer RetentionPrivate and public exchanges are challenged to maintain their client base. Studies have shown that it may be much more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to maintain an existing one. Communication is key to maintaining customers and avatars can be part of the communications campaigns to help exchanges and carriers prepare for the upcoming re-enrollment period.

We understand that there is still plenty of work to do, since re-enrollment rates through the public exchanges are only reaching the 60 percent mark. It’s true that this could be attributed to several factors like self or spouse re-employment, moving etc. but the point remains that differentiation can help with retention and re-enrollment.  These few steps I have outlined above can help move organizations down the path where capturing new and retaining existing customers becomes smoother and more like today’s online retail buying.

Finally, this enrollment period doesn’t have to pass carriers or web brokers by – there still is time to create an IVA experience for consumers before open enrollment.  While new 2016 plans may not be available prior to November, putting an avatar on your site will build the foundation of a relationship early and help the consumer understand what to expect and what action is expected now.

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About the Author

Ray Catudal

As Director of Healthcare Consulting, Ray is focused on CodeBaby’s healthcare specific customers and delivering on CodeBaby’s mission of customer centricity. With over 20 years of experience in medical devices, healthcare and technology, specifically: ehealth, health insurance, and software, Ray is a subject matter expert who contributes to industry articles, and speaks at trade shows and events.

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