Why digital experience is critical for health insurers

By and Carrie Worley | 4 minute read | November 6, 2019

Health consumers are changing, and traditional healthcare services are no longer cutting it. With digitization continuing to reshape expectations, consumers are shouldering a larger share of health costs and taking a more active role in care, and they’re no longer satisfied by the status quo. Instead, they’re looking for more personalized, responsive, digitally-enabled services — redefining what they want from health insurers.

Following the example set by other sectors, healthcare payers are adopting customer-centric operating models to differentiate their brands, deliver more value and unlock growth. But few have progressed far enough, fast enough to keep pace in this rapidly evolving, consumer-driven marketplace.

Payers that move swiftly to take a leadership position as a trusted health partner — providing rewarding experiences and a connected care ecosystem that supports members’ wellness goals — can carve a meaningful role in the future of care.

Here are four ways to advance digital to drive customer-focused innovation and improve member satisfaction.

1. Prioritize the digital experience

Digital giants from Amazon to Google are already adept at delivering efficiency, convenience and tailored experiences. And consumers want the same from healthcare. This requires payers to organize around what customers want and meet their desire for more digitally-enabled services that are personalized, coordinated and capable of addressing needs in real time.

Consumers want to be empowered to make informed decisions and get the most from their healthcare dollars. As well, they want support meeting personal health goals, navigating life or medical events, to dealing with chronic conditions, for themselves and their families.

This requires digital tools that provide real-time, individualized assistance to help members easily access information, understand care options and costs, and support their aim for coordinated health. Payers need to create new ways to connect, deliver individualized value and anticipate what members are likely to want next, to provide superior experiences.

Payers can only meet these expectations if they can:

  • Deeply know customers and their unique health journeys
  • Identify how consumers want to engage and their preferences for interacting
  • Optimize organizational capabilities, processes and technology to personalize engagement and seamlessly connect touchpoints
  • Predict what members are likely to need next, delivering through whichever channels they prefer (messaging, mobile, web, chat, social media to customer care)

2. Activate your data

Data is the key to understanding the customer. But many organizations are overwhelmed by the expanding volume of information available and the challenge to make sense of it all. In healthcare alone, IBM Research predicts the average person is likely to generate more than 1 million gigabytes of health-related data in their lifetime, equivalent to 300 million books.

That’s one reason health leaders are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing — systems that can understand, reason and learn. Designed to analyze vast quantities of data at unprecedented speed and scale, AI uncovers deep connections to amplify knowledge.

Using AI, payers can glean a more nuanced understanding of how customers think, feel and act, and what they care about most. AI can also help dissect end-to-end journeys, mapping consumer paths for researching, obtaining and using health insurance.

As the volume and velocity of data continues to explode, aggregating sources into a single platform can break down silos, automate real-time analysis and speed up knowledge-sharing. With multidimensional intelligence, payers can better craft personalized experiences, shape new products and services, and anticipate what members will want next.

3. Engage with relevance

In today’s customer-driven environment, people increasingly look to brands to meet their needs in the moment. Technology has further shaped expectations, enabling a world of intensely individualized, on-demand, responsive interactions. As a result, consumers want this level of customization when seeking services and support for health and wellness.

Payers must rethink how they interact with customers to optimize timely engagement and deliver real-time relevance and value. AI-powered customer platforms can help connect the dots, enabling organizations to anticipate and respond to customers in meaningful ways.

Creating and automating data-led experiences allows for dynamic tailoring of messages to speak to different audiences at scale. Cognitive analytics can also bring together the right media, content and services to connect when it counts, with interactions that resonate, support and motivate.

Recognizing the need for HIPAA-aligned communications, smart technologies can support personalization and empower members, while meeting requirements for data stewardship, privacy and consent. As a result, payers can remain in compliance, even as they help members get the information they need to support better health and engender trust.

4. Create a digitally enabled ecosystem

An improved digital experience in healthcare is predicated on developing an ecosystem that tightly integrates people, services and technology. Consumers are used to comparing and booking travel options online, receiving personalized shopping recommendations, and even tracking ride-shares in real time. They want the same seamless, convenient and efficient experience from their digitally-enabled healthcare services. They also expect to have the help they need readily accessible at any time, through any device or channel.

Integrating digital self-service tools, with data-led, responsive content and omnichannel experiences, payers can engage consumers in more ways, underpinned by insights and technology. Linking data and customer platforms, further improves cross-functional collaboration to create on-target interactions across digital and traditional touchpoints.

To transform customer service, AI-driven cognitive assistants are creating new avenues to support consumers in managing health. Engaging users in real conversations, they can offload routine inquiries to offer faster assistance, entertain and educate. AI can also provide live agents with insights to solve complex problems more quickly and improve member satisfaction.

Innovation leaders recognize that reinvention is required to propel customer-focused growth. But payers must have a dual focus, transforming their organization to create exceptional experiences today, empowering individuals, value and a trusted health partnership, while laying a foundation for the future. Those who hesitate, risk being left behind.

Learn how IBM iX can unlock your next-generation customer experience strategy

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