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Omnichannel communication: The frontier healthcare meeds to target

By Abhinav Shashank / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
November 6, 2019

One of the many aspects that insurers focus on to create more value through their health plans is to improve communication with the members. In the era of growing digitization, most payers have started to offer online services. However, many beneficiaries still use traditional channels to interact with insurers.

Does it imply that members are averse to using digital channels for communication?

Absolutely not! 

On the contrary, members are, in fact, more inclined to using digital channels than ever before. A survey revealed that 77 percent of consumers would like to pay their health insurance bills through an online portal. If members have the option to use digitized modes and they still continue to use the traditional modes, it clearly indicates there is a problem.

What prevents beneficiaries from using digital channels?

At this point in time, multinational giants such as Amazon and Google have made customers accustomed to unbeatable customized digital content. If members are still using old forms of communication, that is bad news for health plans. The probable reason behind this is unsynchronized information on offline and online channels. 

Take an example of a member who has been communicating with their insurer through a call center and wants to shift to online communication. For that, they would have to share all their details on the new channel all over again, despite the fact that their information was already available to the insurer. This may lead to frustration because this interaction is neither convenient nor fast. As a result, they wouldn’t want to switch to a channel that makes the process more cumbersome than before. 

The solution? Building omnichannel capabilities.

For digital channels of communications to thrive and boost member experience, payers must work on developing omnichannel capabilities. Omnichannel communication can allow members to switch seamlessly between online and offline channels at their own convenience, without any additional steps. Even though most health plans offer digital communication, can only creating omnichannel communication maximize its value?

In fact, omnichannel interaction not only improves the member experience, but it also helps reduce operations costs for health plans. By ensuring smooth digitized communication, insurers can encourage beneficiaries to opt for self-service channels and possibly reduce touchpoints and the need for a large number of customer service representatives.

 Though deploying an omnichannel can increase costs initially, over time, the cost of providing customer service in-person is far greater. It’s a win-win investment for payers as it positively impacts the level of satisfaction of the beneficiaries and at the same time, it also helps save costs.

However, despite multiple benefits, not every insurer is implementing an omnichannel communication infrastructure.

 The challenge in implementing omnichannel capabilities

Let’s take another example, say someone is making a payment to their health plan through an online platform. They get stuck somewhere and get on a call with a customer care executive. They would expect the executive to be already aware of the situation and be ready with the solution.

However, for that to happen, it is important to match the data of each patient on different channels. That is a significant task, especially for large payers with a large number of enrollees. Even if they are able to accomplish this at one point in time, the member data would not cease to grow. The data would need to be updated continuously. 

Automation can be the answer

Member data should be available across all channels for successful omnichannel communication. This can be made possible through a platform that allows the automated integration of member data. When the aggregated data is made available online and offline, beneficiaries can use the model more convenient for them. They can also alternate between the channels and the transition would seem so smooth that they would feel like they are interacting with just one entity, the insurer.

Facilitating omnichannel interaction can markedly improve the beneficiary experience. With this, the members get a sense that their inputs are registered by the insurer and their problems are promptly addressed. It can alleviate the bureaucratic steps in member communication and boost the efficiency of the system.

Road ahead 

The current trend suggests that people are getting less inclined to receive in-person communication for healthcare services. They would prefer to use self-service portals instead of calling customer care. However, this does not mean that traditional communication methods should be discontinued. There are times when a problem arises which cannot be solved digitally. In that case, a member has to get in touch with a payer representative. In a nutshell, establishing omnichannel communication is vital.

As the race for increasing enrollees intensifies, insurers must drive better member experience. Both channels, online and offline, should be made available to the beneficiaries and switching to either of them should be swift and seamless. A data-driven approach is the key to making that happen. 

 Abhinav Shashank s CEO of Innovaccer.

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