by Stephani Simmons
March 21, 2017
As the health care environment continues to evolve, one change seen across the marketplace is an increased focus on the consumer. Health plans large and small have placed a greater emphasis on empowering the consumer, giving them a variety of tools to control their coverage and care.
Health plans demonstrate a consumer focus in a many different ways, with one of the most notable being patient portals where individuals can view the details of their plan, see messages from their plan, and pay their bills.
Providing patient portals has become common practice for health plans, and a benefit consumers have come to expect from them, which has led health plans to innovate what tools they provide to consumers. Some of these transformations have taken the form of: provider directories, mobile apps, and reward programs.
Provider directories offer a comprehensive listing of physicians, clinicians, facilities and pharmacies that are contracted with a health plan to provide services to their members. Along with containing information such as provider address and specialty, an individual can find out whether his or her primary care physician is within a health plan’s network or if a nearby hospital or pharmacy is a part of the network. Previously, these directories were in print and only updated once a year. Now they’re posted online, in a format that’s accessible and searchable for consumers who need reliable information.
Health insurers have recognized the need for convenience. Many health plans such as Cigna, Humana and Oscar Health all provide mobile apps that allow consumers to do everything from making appointments to connecting with a doctor on call. These mobile apps empower consumers by placing the most basic of tasks (viewing coverage information) and more difficult ones (scheduling appointments) at their fingertips. Engagement from patients is evident in a recent poll from CDW Healthcare that showed that if given the digital tools, “64 percent of survey respondents said they would submit personal, real-time healthcare information to their provider.”
Reward Programs/Health Assessments
Health plans realize the financial burden that can be placed on an individual or family when a health care crisis occurs. Insurers try to lessen some of that burden in the form of health assessments and reward programs.