In today’s marketplace that is intently focused on member satisfaction, health plans—particularly Medicare Advantage plans concerned about Star ratings—may want to ask themselves: “Am I really building trust with my member engagement strategies? Or am I just pushing information out to members?”

While the two go hand in hand to help health plans establish member relationships, trust requires patient-centered, multichannel, connected communications. Members expect health plans to know them, whether they interact via telehealth, phone, the plan’s portal or text. And in the pandemic era, trust is now the currency for any business, especially healthcare.

Filling the consumer confidence gap

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reports that consumer trust in most information sources is already low. Faith in government eroded during the pandemic, leaving businesses to fill the trust gap. Nearly 90% of the survey’s respondents agreed that CEOs must lead on important issues. Other studies have also shed specific light on the need for healthcare organizations to show consumers they care by connecting in ways that matter.

Embracing frequency and much more

How health plans engage with members has come a long way in recent years. The thinking used to be: the fewer times a plan interacted with members, the lower the costs. Now health plans know that improved outcomes, cost-savings and member satisfaction can be a direct result of involvement with members’ care, every step of the way. 

Yet frequent engagement doesn’t automatically equal a relationship built on trust. For that to happen, members need to feel their health plan “gets them.” Data-driven engagement can help inform member conversations, personalize virtual interactions and demonstrate you truly know your members. Plans should consider how their communications make members feel, starting from the beginning of plan enrollment, and then commit to regularly removing any bottlenecks in the member’s ability to get care along the way.

A few questions can help you drive planning discussions:

  • Can members access information quickly and easily to make different types of healthcare decisions? Do you have survey data to prove it?
  • Can members receive personalized support for specific care situations? How easy is it to get that support?
  • Do you have data or an index that shows the level of compassion members experience when interacting with the plan?

Three factors to help you meet health plan member expectations

So much of success in building trust will be rooted in consumer expectations. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends, “when delivery doesn’t meet expectations, trust breaks down.”

Your health plan’s reputation and member satisfaction levels are ultimately determined by how well the member experience you deliver aligns with the promises you make.

Your members’ expectations may vary, but we know —based on our work with 70,000 healthcare consumer interactions every day—that three key factors are rarely absent from the list. Those are reliability, transparency and empathy.

  • Reliability

When members need care or have questions, and especially when they’re experiencing a crisis or complex diagnosis, the most trusted health plans are available, offering information, stability and reassurance. Use of integrated data at all touchpoints is important here, as is making sure service teams know the right questions to ask … and don’t ask ones the plan should already have the answers to.

  • Transparency

Being clear and open about your processes, coverages and costs is also critical. And make communication a two-way street—give your members the opportunity to share opinions and ask for their input on how to improve the overall experience with the plan and your provider networks.

  • Empathy

Lower member satisfaction levels are often linked to lack of care coordination and empathy, not coverage issues. An empathy-driven service team and organizational culture starts with formal training and coaching that institutionalizes compassion and caring. This will help ensure your teams demonstrate dedication to member well-being, especially when it has no direct benefit for the plan.

Wrapping up

Nurturing member relationships by building trust into every touchpoint can only make your members appreciate your plan more. And the bottom line is that without a well-established, trusted relationship, members won’t turn to their insurance plan very often. And that means plans won’t have a place at the table to help guide and address decisions, care, satisfaction and costs.

For more ideas to improve your plan’s member experience, request a copy of our ebook, The COVID-19 Pandemic as a Wake-up Call: How Health Plans Can Seize the Moment to Transform Member Relationships.

We’re always here to answer any healthcare engagement questions you have. Please reach out to us directly via our contact form.