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Study: Payers, Providers, Patients Differ on Consumer Engagement Investments, Effectiveness

January 29, 2018
by Change Healthcare
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Consumer engagement is a primary focus for health plans and providers, but the stakeholders have different agendas when it comes to engagement priorities and efficacy.  In a recent study of payers, providers, and consumers conducted by ORC International and commissioned by Change Healthcare, 72% of consumers reported their experience with providers and health plans hasn’t improved – or has even worsened – in the past 24 months.  However, according to the same study, investment in consumer engagement is a top priority for 80% of payers and 72% of providers, with as much as one-third of their health IT investment dollars aimed at improving the consumer experience.  The need for better alignment is clear. 

According to The Engagement Gap: Healthcare Consumer Engagement in 2017, providers and payers have a strong and growing commitment to invest in consumer-centric strategies.  Their top reasons are not surprising; value-based care is the No. 1 driver, followed by competitive pressures and consumer demand for a more “retail-like” experience.  Interestingly, the study also found that providers and payers are mostly aligned on strategic priorities – increasing patient/member accessibility, and improving websites and call centers.  In addition, their objectives are similar – to improve patient/member satisfaction and increase market share.  Both providers and payers report seeing positive results from their efforts with enhanced websites, patient/member portals, and email communication. 

However, consumer perceptions differed in the survey, with nearly three quarters of respondents indicating that their experience hasn’t improved – or has even worsened – in the past 24 months. Less than 21% reported an improved experience on any given measure.

In looking at specific provider engagement measures, just 22% of consumers indicated they found it easier to get an appointment when needed.  Only 18% said easily getting information from their provider’s website had improved, 14% found their bills easier to understand, and only 9% said it was easier to compare healthcare costs.  

Why the disconnect?

“Consumers want better tools to understand and manage their growing financial responsibility.  Payers and providers have opportunities to engage consumers through tailored experiences, promote adoption of innovative services, and increase member satisfaction and retention.” said Carolyn J. Wukitch, senior vice president & general manager, Network and Financial Management, Change Healthcare.  “Change Healthcare has played an integral role in helping partners create and execute these programs across their networks.”

Study findings offer clues on where to start.  Among provider technologies, consumers rated care alerts and self-scheduling as their two most important engagement technologies, followed by cost estimates and websites.  E-mail was the preferred method for engaging with providers by two-thirds of consumers, followed by websites and text messaging. 

In summary, while there has been provider and payer success with some of their investments, consumer response indicates that there is still a great deal of opportunity for improvement. There remains a huge satisfaction gap to be closed; which can improve if providers and payers tailor the healthcare experience to consumer preferences, promote adoption of services and technologies, and constantly solicit feedback.  

About the Study

The Engagement Gap: Healthcare Consumer Engagement in 2017 was conducted by ORC International and commissioned by Change Healthcare.  ORC surveyed executives from 251 providers and 89 payers to understand how they are approaching and investing in their consumer-centric goals.  As part of the study, a U.S. census-weighted sample of 771 consumers were polled to learn how their consumer experience with their providers and health plans had changed over the previous two years, what technologies they currently use to engage with payers and providers, which technologies they prefer, and which they consider most important.  To learn more, download the complete study at ConsumerEngagementStudy.com.

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