The digital revolution has changed consumer behavior irrevocably in virtually every way. The internet brought the world to us. Smartphones put it in our hands. Amazon spoiled us with shopping experiences that are fast, friendly and personal. Now, we expect to be able to pick, choose, compare prices and make decisions in seconds – anywhere, any time.
Healthcare insurance consumers are no exception. However, as Accenture reported recently, “Healthcare consumers are becoming more digital, yet health insurers lag other industries in terms of engagement.”
It’s easy to see why. Until recently, healthcare insurance has been anything but consumer led, with payers focusing mainly on employers and the group market. By the time the Affordable Care Act shifted attention to individuals, digital-savvy consumers already were ahead of the game. That’s left us in a position where consumer demand for a quality digital experience already is high, but the market isn’t prepared to supply it. The good news is that the insurance industry is waking up to the importance of both the customer experience and digital innovation. A new survey by FIS and Raconteur found that increased customer satisfaction is the top reason for insurers to innovate in the digital age. And if they don’t innovate, 86 percent said they believe they could lose market share.
In other words, it’s more urgent than ever for healthcare payers to go digital. “As consumers’ digital intensity grows, they’re less likely to see differentiation among insurers – and more likely to shop around,” reported Accenture.
All of this comes at a pivotal time in the industry. Competition is increasing between insurers, who in turn are being threatened by more digitally aware contenders from outside the traditional payer market – contenders who offer even more choice and freedom.
A key step for established healthcare payers should be to automate manual, paper-based processes. Through digital processing of enrollment and claims, organizations will significantly improve efficiency and create a more engaging, competitive customer experience.
With customer data at their fingertips, digitally mature insurers are able to respond more quickly to consumer requirements and begin to build deeper, more lasting relationships. That in turn drives understanding and loyalty.
As U.S. healthcare reform looks to push towards a free market model, the digitalization of services will be key to survival. No matter which route regulation takes us, it is critical to understand consumers are now in the driver’s seat. And to avoid the highway that leads to M&A or “out of business” causalities, it’s in every provider’s best interest to follow the consumer path.