PatientEngagementHIT

Patient Responsibility News

60% of Patients Want Stronger Health Payer Communications

A recent survey shows that health payer communications can be bolstered by patient-facing health IT.

Health payers should use health IT to have stronger communication with beneficiaries.

Source: Thinkstock

- Health payer communication and engagement with patients is lacking, especially with regard to patient-facing digital tools, according to a new HealthMine survey.

The survey of 750 insured patients found that health payers need to do more to support chronic care management by ramping up their digital communication with patients.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they only hear from their health plans about their chronic illness about once per year, and 60 percent of patients said their health payers should communicate with them more often about subjects other than bill pay.

Seventy-three percent of respondents added that they don’t perceive that their health payers understand their health conditions well.

Health technology might present one opportunity for health payers to better understand beneficiary health and gain better insights. Eighty-three percent of respondents said they use digital health tools, but only 22 percent say their health plans use information from health IT.

It is possible that healthcare payers are using digital health data and patients simply don’t know about it. However, it may still be useful for payers to be more transparent about using patient data and then communicate those findings with beneficiaries.

Patients aren’t entirely connected with their health payers either, the survey revealed. Only 21 percent of respondents said they regularly use their health payer’s portal.

Low patient portal uptake may be due to a perceived lack of portal usefulness. Of the patients who did report using the health payer’s portal, only 30 percent said the tool was useful for answering their health-related questions.

Staying connected with a healthcare payer on social media seemed to be more helpful for patients. Over half of health plan members (63 percent) reported not following their payers on social media, with 78 percent of those individuals saying a payer’s social account was helpful.

Healthcare payers should consider paying attention to their health information sources and connections with patients, said HealthMine Vice President of Product Brennan Collins.

"Members want one central source for their health information, and health plans can be the hub,” Collins said in a statement.

"To more deeply connect with members, it is better if plan sponsors communicate through each member's preferred channels and share health intelligence — not just data,” he continued. “Health Intelligence leverages health data and provides real-time personalized guidance to manage health. Plans that deliver that kind of value will better engage their members."

Health payers should also consider adding more tools to improve price transparency, the survey showed. Only 39 percent of patients reported that their healthcare payers offer a cost transparency tool, although separate research indicates that more patients want access to cost information.

Some healthcare payers have experienced success by implementing patient-facing tools that offer both price transparency and other health plan information.

An information hub for patients at Independence Blue Cross helped boost payer communications and ultimately improved the patient experience with health plans.

“In a consumer-centric world, it is increasingly important to be able to create the most impactful and personalized customer experience you can, and ensure that members are able to access the information they need at the right time,” Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Executive Paula Sunshine said in a past interview with PatientEngagementHIT.com.

Independence developed IBX Wire, which answered many patient questions about chronic care management, healthcare costs, and how to access in-network care.

Independence reached more patients by offering this information on a digital platform. This updated method built upon past strategies such as mailouts, telephone calls, and emails.

“We were watching as consumers transacted more of their business from their mobile phones, using digital channels to manage everything from their bank accounts to their personal relationships – and we saw an opportunity to communicate with them in the way they wanted to be reached,” Sunshine said. “The forms of communication we had long relied on as an industry simply weren’t driving the same level of engagement they once did.”

These themes all circle back to a central aspect of patient engagement: strong communication with consumers.

Healthcare payers must be mindful of their communications with beneficiaries. Between price transparency and chronic care management support, patients are increasingly calling on their payers to forge stronger relationships with them.