Communities: Health Plan Communication
If Veterinarians can do it - Why can’t you? Creating Customer Stickiness for a Lifetime
By Don Hall and Sherry Rohlfing, DeltaSigma
Regardless of how the Supreme Court votes on the Accountable Care Act, the health care system in this country is in a state of dynamic evolution as the demographics, costs of care, ongoing economic issues and technology revolution continue unabated. Emerging in the middle of this crisis is a trend that will perhaps have the most profound impact on predicting the winners and losers in the health care industry – customers demanding tangible value from their health plan and providers.
It’s actually amazing that an industry that touches its customers in the most intimate ways, at birth, during frightening medical events and through the end of life, has managed to avoid this issue as long as it has. In large part, this is a result of the disconnect between the payer and the customer. With employers or the government paying the bulk of the cost of care, members have been insulated from the true cost of care and thus have not responded as typical customers purchasing a product. The significant movement of employers to high-deductible health plans, which have exposed members to more of a true buying experience has changed that.
Now that your members are really becoming your customers, how would they describe your plan? Would they say they feel a deep connection to the plan? If you were creating your plan from scratch today, what would you do to create the most positive customer experience?
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) is an example of a health plan that is focusing on their customer’s experience in a positive way. Ian Gordon, the plan’s COO, created a unique member experience following his interactions with his dog's veterinarian. His dog was terminally ill and Ian's family decided that it was time to let him go.
They took him to the veterinarian and Ian was amazed at the humanity expressed by everyone he encountered, and how it contrasted with his experiences with the human health care system. As a result, he decided to put more personal caring into his plan. He asked that his medical management and member services teams pay close attention when talking to members and find ways to let them know that they were cared about.
As an example, whenever a nurse or customer service representative hears a baby in the background of a call to a seriously ill member they send a teddy bear to the home. Recognizing the natural intimacy that exists between the plan and its members, he’s asked his staff to find other ways to let members know that the health plan was sympathetic to their circumstance. This simple action has brought with it not only a unique plan differentiation in the market but also let BCBSNC's staff feel better about the role they play in their member's lives.
How can you create a similar initiative within your plan?
Independent Health of Buffalo, New York has created a concierge initiative called the “Red Shirt Treatment” as a way of punctuating the customer experience for their members by offering individual health coaching, community guidance, compassion and wellness support. There are specific initiatives for commercial and Medicare members, as well as employer groups. Their goal is to create a positive customer experience associated with their brand. They have created a website (RedShirtTreatment.com) with customer videos highlighting their positive experiences. What can you do to improve your customer experience?
Another example of an innovative way to improve the customer experience is a program called Shield Deals from Blue Shield of California (BSC). This pilot program provides members with weekly discounts on fitness, nutrition, sports and Yoga/Pilates classes and equipment. The program has been so successful that it will soon be expended to additional geographical areas and to additional audiences. These types of programs can make plans more attractive to low utilizers of healthcare - especially the “Young Invincibles” that every plan wants to enroll. Why should a low utilizer select your health plan and stick with it for the long haul?
The next couple of years will see a tremendous amount of change in virtually every aspect of the health care industry, driven in large part by customer demand. Will your organization be able to meet the demands of your customers and provide demonstrated value and an engaging customer experience? In other words, how can you be more like a veterinarian?
About DeltaSigma, LLC - DeltaSigma, LLC is a national healthcare consulting practice that creates plans for dramatic results for its clients. Formed in 2006, the company offers innovative approaches that focus on developing strategic business, diversification and marketing plans; creating communication programs; and, evaluating and developing opportunities for outsourcing, accessing capital, and partnerships as a means of strategic market positioning. Learn more about the company’s services at www.deltasigmallc.com. Based in Littleton, Colo., DeltaSigma was founded by former non-profit health plan CEOs Don Hall and Sherry Rohlfing.
About the Authors:
Don Hall, MPH, has more than 30 years of experience in all aspects of non-profit and for-profit healthcare management, including public health, hospital systems, and health plans. His extensive background includes executive level positions with Hospital Corporation of America, Lincoln National Corporation, EQUICOR and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas. Before becoming a founding partner of DeltaSigma, LLC in 2006, Don served for eight years as President and CEO of Colorado Access, a non-profit provider-sponsored health plan focusing on Medicaid, SCHIP, Medicare Advantage special needs populations, and corrections care.
Sherry Rohlfing has more than 25 years of experience in various aspects of managed care. Her career has centered on the successful creation and implementation of numerous programs that have led to product line expansion and new business development for health plans in both commercial and government sectors. Sherry worked in market research, product development and strategic business development and was the Director of Managed Care for Special Populations at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas. Before becoming a founding partner of DeltaSigma, LLC in 2006, she served as Vice President of Market and Business Development and Interim CEO at Colorado Access.
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