Omnichannel strategies are becoming increasingly significant to successful member engagement.
What is omnichannel engagement? Omnichannel engagement is a strategy that originated as a sales and marketing term but has infiltrated various sectors of the healthcare industry with the rise of healthcare consumerism.
This strategy involves using various consumer touchpoints to push a product in a coordinated way, BigCommerce.com explains.
Importantly, omnichannel retailing is different from multichannel retailing in that it does not separate channels, BigCommerce.com continues. Instead, omnichannel retailing presents consumers with a cohesive brand and strategy across all touchpoints.
Similarly, omnichannel engagement in health insurance does not merely indicate that a payer uses several channels for member engagement. Rather, it entails creating a seamless, simple, and comprehensive consumer experience across all channels to facilitate member engagement.
This approach is gaining importance in an industry that is notorious for its dearth of member engagement and member satisfaction. Health insurers have received low scores across surveys on both of these metrics, perhaps most notably in the annual JD Power Medicare Advantage and commercial insurance surveys.
The boom in telehealth utilization gave commercial payers a boost in member satisfaction and member engagement going into 2021.
But to continue riding that momentum, payers will need to know how to create a cohesive member engagement approach across many channels and touchpoints—they will need to embrace omnichannel member engagement.
The omnichannel approach presents three main benefits for payers as they seek to improve their member engagement strategies.
EMPHASIZES VALUABLE, DIRECT MEMBER INTERACTION
Omnichannel engagement can break down the barriers between payers and members, particularly in employer-sponsored health plans. In employer-sponsored health plans, the payer may engage more directly with the employer than it engages with the member.
Omnichannel member engagement strategies can close the distance between payers and employees. The approach accomplishes this goal by exercising more control over where members go to get answers to their questions and interact with their health plans, according to a McKinsey & Co report.
By coordinating their approach across various platforms and channels, payers can direct common, easy questions to channels that will not produce an administrative strain, such as artificial intelligence chatbots.
Members also have more opportunities to find answers through self-service in an omnichannel system. Such systems cut costs by reducing the need for customer service centers and allows the payer to focus its resources on more complex issues of member engagement.
For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) used an omnichannel approach to partner with its employer-sponsored health plan members. The payer implemented this strategy in order to engage with consumers in a more timely way.
BCBSM’s channels of communication included its app which allowed members to see their claims and the breakdown of their costs. In the app, a bot powered by artificial intelligence handled basic consumer questions.
Apart from the app, the omnichannel strategy spanned BCBSM’s care management program and its telehealth solutions, among other tools and strategies. For BCBSM, the omnichannel approach allowed for timely payer-member interactions. It also provided a space for consumer feedback.
However, the omnichannel approach is not strictly a technology decision or a marketing decision. When implementing this strategy in an employer-sponsored health plan, it will also require employer collaboration.
In addition to establishing its omnichannel approach, BCBSM told HealthPayerIntelligence that the payer had to collaborate more closely with its employer partners.
PROVIDES MORE HOLISTIC METHODS FOR LISTENING TO MEMBERS
As BCBSM mentioned, the omnichannel strategy facilitates consumer feedback and, by extension, empowers payers’ listening capabilities.
Different segments of the health insurance industry have different standards for member experience data collection which could indicate health plans’ performance on member engagement.
For example, the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey assesses how Medicare Advantage plans have performed on patient engagement metrics. The survey provides vital data for the Medicare Advantage Star Ratings system.
Every year, Medicare Advantage plans hire a survey vendor to conduct their CAHPS surveys a Better Medicare Alliance report explained.
CMS chooses a group of beneficiaries at random to complete the survey. The questions request each member participant’s perspective about her health plan, prescription drug plan, care in the last six months, and other factors.
However, this survey only occurs once each year and is limited to a random group of members, not the entire member population.
The omnichannel approach offers other ways to receive member feedback more directly and situated in the immediate context of their healthcare and health insurance experiences.
Blue Cross North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) has used its omnichannel strategy to gather member experience data, a metric that is interlocked with strong member engagement.
“What we needed was a centralized place to listen to our members and a centralized place to better understand where we needed to go to drive experience metrics up to ultimately improve the experience for our members,” Sarah Wechsberg, manager of voice of consumer and experience strategy at Blue Cross North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) told HealthPayerIntelligence.
The payer used a vendor to streamline data from across the payer’s many channels and member touchpoints into a single platform. In doing so, the Blue Cross NC team created a more organized environment for capturing member experience and improving its strategies accordingly.
The payer found its approach to be successful. In 2019, the platform gathered data from over 58 million digital and non-digital interactions with members. By listening to its consumers across all of these channels, Blue Cross NC saw its net promoter score increase along with other positive trends in member experience measures.
Using omnichannel listening can translate into omnichannel member engagement as payers turn insights into action.
ENABLES TELEHEALTH INTEGRATION
Omnichannel tools can build on and enable digital integration.
Telehealth and other digital tools have been challenging to integrate, even with the boost that they received from the restrictions on in-person care due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“When you have a big technology tool, one of the hardest parts is integrating different technologies so that the data can flow,” Wechsberg told HealthPayerIntelligence when discussing Blue Cross NC’s experience with its omnichannel listening tool.
Despite these challenges, Blue Cross NC ultimately managed to create a platform that unified its various channels of member engagement.
Between 40 and 60 percent of consumers express an interest in using virtual care solutions in a more integrated way, such as the “digital front door,” according to a McKinsey & Co report.
In order to make that a reality, payers have to facilitate smoother communication between and seamless member experience of a digitally integrated healthcare system.
Researchers from McKinsey & Co recommended using an omnichannel care model—among other strategies—in order to support digital integration. To function as an omnichannel care model, the solution must incorporate telehealth and in-person care with a consistent group of healthcare providers.
Omnichannel care models produce more opportunities for targeted member engagement.
“The more that you can bring those digital entry points together, the more successful that you will be in navigating patients to the right places and boosting utilization of those digital tools,” Tara J. Nooteboom, manager of digital patient engagement at the Chicago-based academic health center Rush System for Health, shared during Xtelligent Healthcare Media’s Patient Experience Virtual Summit.
Aetna and CVS Health launched an omnichannel care model that could seamlessly address members’ mental healthcare needs in both virtual and in-person settings.
The payer first developed its in-person solution by leveraging its CVS HealthHUBs, placing licensed clinical social workers at these sites so that members could access in-person primary care and preventive care solutions. The social workers offer a range of services including mental health assessments, referrals, and counseling.
But as part of its omnichannel approach, the payer is also developing a virtual solution to operate alongside the in-person option. Patients will be able to switch between virtual and in-person care according to their preferences and convenience.
“We start by keeping the individual that we’re supporting and their ecosystem at the center of this equation,” Cara McNulty, president of behavioral health and the Employee Assistance Program at Aetna, shared.
“Then we look at, ‘What are the problems that get in the way of people seeking care?’ And when we think about virtual care, we even broaden that to: ‘What is our omnichannel approach to removing barriers for people to get the care and support that they need?’”
Thus, adopting an omnichannel approach to mental healthcare expanded the touchpoint and member engagement opportunities for the payer and increased access to mental healthcare for Aetna’s members.
As payers move towards improving member satisfaction, omnichannel approaches—including omnichannel listening and omnichannel care models—may become core features of a successful member engagement strategy.