Ever since consumerism hit healthcare, the oft quoted objective is to give consumers the same kind of personalized experiences they have in other consumer-focused industries. Retail and financial services companies have gotten so good at this that they regularly provide personalized recommendations and interactions that are just short of eerie. These industries are far ahead of healthcare in their ability to use technologies for sophisticated marketing and customer service programs that engage customers with useful information at the very moment they are inclined to use it, creating relationships so sticky that customers keep coming back.
Retail and financial services understand excellent customer service is a business strategy that delivers top line growth and customer loyalty in an age of "single use" relationships. While healthcare has made some progress in adopting these digital age customer service practices into sales and transaction service processes, there exists a much larger and more significant customer service opportunity: care and health management.
The challenges all industries face is that the relationship and interaction does not stop at the sales or administrative transaction, which is particularly difficult for healthcare due to the sensitive and complicated nature of information at stake, including health and care management interactions. Customers regularly deal with many different individuals, organizations, plans, care and wellness programs, and channels to obtain and manage their healthcare benefits. Health plans can elevate their level of customer service with collaborative programs to help customers manage these different sources of information.
Collaborative programs among health plans, healthcare payers and consumers have been shown to reduce incidence, cost of treatment, and improve overall health outcomes. Similarly, collaborative programs implemented to reduce adverse medication interactions and improve regimen adherence vastly reduce potential for catastrophic events. With the national focus on cost and quality objectives and rapidly increasing consumer demands for greater information and involvement in healthcare decisions, relegating care and health management activities to the health plan's back office is obsolete. Rather, care and health management is the new healthcare consumer engagement frontier.
As care and health management move into the sphere of consumer engagement, the ability to provide personalized interactions becomes the principal differentiator and success factor for health plans. Consumers now expect omnichannel and always on access – both for themselves and from their health plan representatives – to a 360 degree view of their health plan interactions, service and activities. They expect that in all interactions and channels, health plan representatives will demonstrate they know the consumer's needs and preferences. This includes benefits, administrative, care, health, and wellness. Consumers will no longer tolerate repetitive information or a lack of consistency between care management plans among different care managers, health and wellness recommendations, and payments. Excellence in customer service is defined by the ability to provide aligned health, care and transaction information that enables new levels of personalization.
Forrester Research calls this "The Power of Customer Context." Broad based communications and traditional campaigns simply don't invoke high value responses. Consumers ignore (or even worse, are annoyed by) out-of-context, poorly timed or inadequately focused campaigns, leading to discarded letters and deleted emails. What if, like a typical retail experience, health plans provided customized and targeted information to consumers when they might use it? Recommendations, programs, incentives, care alerts, and referral updates are all opportunities for personalized interactions that will extend the relationship and improve outcomes.
What's the next big thing for health plan consumer engagement? It's all about looking at all healthcare interactions as customer engagement opportunities and bringing customer engagement technologies and programs to that largest of untapped opportunities: care and health management.