As the holiday season shifts into high gear, an ever-increasing number of consumers go online to find the best deals and enjoy the convenience of shopping from their computer, phone or tablet. Why can't health care be like that? We think it can be.
We are working to make it easier for consumers to shop online for health insurance plans that fit their needs and budgets. And once they decide on the right plan, we're developing new tools, technologies and incentives to help them have more healthy days and reduce their overall cost of health care.
Here are five guiding strategies that help consumers choose and use their health plans.
1. Go digital for decision support and convenience
Buying health insurance is a big decision, with many variables. Just as consumers have access to online tools to choose options and configure a computer or car, they expect digital tools to help them make the right decision about a health plan. Health literacy is a big issue – nearly 90 million people, almost half of all U.S. adults, say they struggle with health literacy and don't understand or use health information when it is presented to them.
Online decision support tools make it easier for consumers to understand the impact of their choices based on their particular situation. Plain language, straightforward plan designs and side-by-side plan comparisons reduce the jargon and confusion that can sometimes prevent consumers from choosing their ideal plan. Once they select a plan, consumers should be able to complete the entire enrollment process online, and then access their digital member ID and benefit resources from any computer or device.
2. Help consumers understand the true cost of care
Purchasing the plan is only the beginning. Today, as consumers assume greater responsibility for the cost of health care, they're motivated to keep out-of-pocket costs as low as possible. Cost transparency tools that are integrated with plan network information and mobile apps can help consumers find the right care at the right place and cost to fit their needs. For example, apps can show consumers the nearest urgent care or outpatient facility as an alternative to a more costly trip to the emergency room without sacrificing care quality.
3. Integrate wearable data
Wearables and connected devices can track everything from calories and steps to heart rate and blood sugar, providing crucial real-time, accurate data. Wearable data can be integrated with other personal health data through in a member portal to drive customized feedback and recommendations to improve health and wellness. This rich data is particularly helpful for care managers as they work with higher-risk individuals on health management strategies that fit with their daily life.
4. Reward healthy behavior
Too often, health care focuses on treating the negative instead of encouraging the positive. Rewarding consumers for healthy behavior can make a big impact. Incentives can be simple, like a gift card for keeping an eye on blood sugar with a glucometer. The real reward is better health.
5. Differentiate strategies based on consumer needs
When it comes to health management, one size doesn't fit all. Sometimes consumers need the personal touch. Depending on the complexity of a health situation, having a care manager involved may be the right approach to help a consumer understand how to manage his or her symptoms and avoid complications. Even in this one-on-one scenario, technology plays an important role, connecting providers, care managers and, when applicable, accountable care organizations to ensure everyone has the latest information.
Our goal is to make it easy for consumers to manage their health care and increase their healthy days, whatever their situation. To accomplish that, we are developing and refining solutions built around the consumer to help them choose the right health plan and realize its greatest value through user-friendly tools, better technologies and more coordinated care.