Learning from the Healthcare.gov debacle

By Karin Ratchinsky
12:42 PM
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The Obama administration’s last 2012 re-election campaign was highly tech-savvy, leveraging all forms of social and digital media to coerce a younger generation of voters. Every day millions of Americans log onto Facebook and over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube. Clearly, the expertise and technologies exist, so why was the roll-out of Healthcare.gov so flawed? Rolling out a national health insurance marketplace is a highly complex task, and comparing it to the digital prowess of the 2012 campaign, although tempting, is not apples to apples.  What analysts and HIT leaders can agree on, however, is that we will all look back on this as a mere glitch in the inevitable transition to digitizing our healthcare ecosystem.

Consumerization has infiltrated virtually all forms of business, and although healthcare is arguably a laggard in the technology race, it has picked up enormous speed. Recent regulatory requirements can be attributed to this change as can the pressure from our expectations as consumers. After all, we shop and manage our finances online and we expect to be able to manage and access our healthcare records and policies online too.  How can healthcare payers and providers, including Healthcare.gov, position themselves to come out on top as players scramble to be digitally relevant? What do they need to do to meet consumer expectations? What can they learn from the healthcare.gov debacle?

  1. Ensure 100% availability; we live in a 24/7/365 society: Last year 25 million shoppers visited Amazon.com on Cyber Monday, so the approximately 18 million people that visited insurance marketplaces Oct. 1 was a pretty strong turnout, however the difference is these marketplaces weren’t prepared. Websites and call centers have peak times and down times and there are tools that can be leveraged to prepare for spikes in traffic, for times like Cyber Monday and open enrollment. Work with your communications providers to better understand your options to scale to meet peak traffic volumes or risk losing customers.
  2. Be high performing; ensure solid security and rapid load times regardless of device: 88% of Americans with Internet access research health information online. 57% of users will abandon a site that takes over 3 seconds to load and 8 of those 10 users will not return to a site where they experienced disappointing service.  Leading websites leverage CDN and DDoS technologies to optimize experience by anticipating user behavior, cache objects at the edge to ensure speedier performance and secure site content.  Select partners have the ability to deliver accelerated solutions optimizing content across a breadth of devices, from smart phones to tablets all while protecting data, as a recent attack on Healthcare.gov shows, these sites are prime threat targets.
  3. Make my life easier, give me options for communications: Consumers are barraged with communications options, we text, IM, call, Skype, Facetime, SnapChat, and we expect businesses to keep up. Invest in communications solutions that deliver against your entire consumer base, from call centers to smart phone apps – ensure your IT team stays in lock step with marketing and with a communications provider that can deliver again your evolving needs.
  4. Understand who I am as an individual: Retail has been leveraging big data for years with the goal to personalize the end user experience. Payers and providers are aiming to do the same and analysts tout that the next big trend in healthcare is personalized medicine – design your online portals and work with your data analysis teams and communications partners alike to ensure you are prepared for this new phenomenon.
  5. Stay ahead of the curve, anticipate needs and expectations and prosper: First mover advantage can be a powerful thing. Keep a pulse on how consumers are communicating, how leaders in other industries are harnessing technology to deliver a better user experience and win more business. Bring your communications partner to strategic brainstorming sessions so you can leverage tools that other businesses have already uncovered.

 The rapid adoption of information technology within healthcare is phenomenally exciting. Not only does it pave the way for us as consumers to access, control and take action of our own health, digitized PHI has the potential to spur revolutionary medical research. The healthcare.gov debacle illustrates that we have a ways to go before we reach HIT euphoria. However establishing these marketplaces is a step in the right direction to infuse much needed technology into our healthcare system.