By Will Owen
In the Digital Age, traditional payer organizations are facing greater pressure to become active players in population health management and the patient experience of care. With today’s free-flow of information and a greater understanding of healthcare, patients alongside value-based care proponents expect more interconnected, consumer-friendly health plans that help patients better navigate the maze of the American healthcare system.
In a world of instant gratification and a suite of on-demand services straight from your smartphone, Millennial and Gen Z patients scoff at paying high co-pays to ask questions that could easily be answered through an app or via text. Furthermore, it is estimated that roughly 26 million Americans are about to enter Medicare, and although these individuals did not learn to use touch screens before they could talk, they are highly connected and use smartphones in their daily lives.
Much has been written about how providers can better connect with their patients through patient engagement technology, but to remain competitive in commercial insurance markets, payers must also leverage similar methods and streamline patient connection with their pharmacy, providers, and other actors in their health plan.
Payers have the opportunity to update their services in these three unique areas:
As a patient’s first interaction with their prospective health plan, it is imperative that a payer’s point-of-sale interface be user-friendly and easy to understand. Consumers, especially Millennials, expect to easily find and manage plans that are right for them without the need for a representative.
Chronic Disease Management
In leveraging technology to help patients manage their own chronic diseases, payers help to lower costs for all parties involved in a patient’s care. Payers have the opportunity to become a daily source of support to patients through patient engagement technology tools, such as text messaging appointment and medication reminders, wearables, and apps for smartphones. According to a New England Journal of Medicine survey, health executives and clinical leaders view chronic disease management as the top benefit of patient engagement technology.
Some exciting new patient engagement technology on the horizon includes a partnership between Apple and Aetna to add subsidized Apple Watches to Aetna health plans, which will potentially feature diabetes monitoring sensors. Oscar Health, a tech-focused health insurance company popular among millennials, already boasts a full-service app that allows patients to manage plans and easily reach their doctors with disease management questions.
User-Friendly Patient Billing Systems and Member Portals
Tech savvy patients who are accustomed to mobile banking apps and Venmo also expect more user-friendly, less esoteric billing systems and online member portals. Similar in their attitudes toward a payer organization’s point-of-sale interface, most Millennials would prefer to navigate their insurance payments on their own. French health insurance startup, Alan, recently launched an app that allows patients to send their medical bills, provide notice they are in the hospital, and seamlessly contact Alan representatives. To compete in the emerging marketplace, other payers must create similar “digital one-stop shops,” better accommodating the preferences of their rising customer base.
Connected Care Models in the Shift to Value
In tandem with updating their patient engagement technology, payers are in the decisive position to facilitate value-based contracts with providers, determining payment and reimbursement based on quality of care. As a more active part of the patient’s larger care team, payers become a more supportive, less impersonal presence in a patient’s life. In a more collaborative, value-based healthcare landscape, it is essential that payers provide an interconnected, accessible health plan to adapt to changes in both patient and industry expectations.