Health Insurers Can Build Links to Customers With Social, Mobile Tools

By Brian T. Horowitz

Health insurers have further to go in using mobile tools and social media to develop a community with consumers, according to EveryMove, a health rewards-based marketing and incentives company. It has released its EveryMove 100 Health Insurance Index, which ranked the top 100 health insurance companies in the United States on how they engage with consumers to manage their own health.

As more individuals will be shopping for health plans in health insurance exchanges (HIXes) as a result of the mandate in the Affordable Care Act to have insurance, more transparency will be needed in how insurers meet consumers' needs and interact with them, according to EveryMove, which released its rankings Aug. 27.

EveryMove listed both regional and national plans based on whether they offer mobile Websites and apps, how well they use social media and whether incentive programs help motivate patients to adopt healthier habits. The company also examined how insurers use SMS and live chat to provide customer service.

"I wouldn't say anybody is knocking it out of the park on an absolute basis relative to other industries," Russell Benaroya, EveryMove's CEO, told eWEEK.

Scores were based on 50 metrics that measure how well insurers meet consumer needs for accessibility, motivation, community activism and overall satisfaction. Topping the rankings was New York-based Capital District Physicians' Health Plan, with a score of 73.8. The health plan, which has 385,000 members, is running a photo sweepstakes to reward healthy activity, Benaroya said.

In second place was Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) with a score of 73. BCBSAZ uses social feeds to engage its community and also uses a Spotify account to allow members to share songs, Benaroya noted.

Independence Blue Cross (IBC) in the Philadelphia area took third place with a score of 71.9. IBC is working with Penn Medicine to see if Vitality's electronic GlowCap for pill bottles increases medication adherence. In fifth place, with a 71.6 mark was Humana, which uses Hewlett-Packard's Exstream communications management software and SundaySky SmartVideo technology to offer personalized video health plan statements.

Of the health plans ranked, 97 used both Twitter and LinkedIn, while 87 were on Facebook and 81 had a presence on YouTube.

The goal of the rankings was to create transparency and trigger a conversation between consumers and health insurers on how they're using technology, according to Benaroya.

"We believe that by creating some transparency around who is doing what and who is doing things well, we can start to push the conversation and hopefully be a catalyst for action," Benaroya said.

Health plans have more work to do to create this transparency using technology. They have a "long way to go around using these technologies to actively engage that population," he said.

Although any company can set up a social media account and say they have a Facebook page, insurance companies need to use these tools for "active dialogue as an important part of their business," Benaroya said.  "That's not happening right now. You would expect that to be the case at some level."

This would include actively monitoring social channels and promptly responding to comments, he said, while noting that active engagement using social media will allow insurers to build trust with consumers.

Many health plans offer mobile apps, but only 22 percent of health plans allow consumers to access their data on the mobile Web, according to Benaroya.

Although health plans need to encourage additional use of technology, consumers' adoption of these tech tools is not uncommon, according to Matthew Holt, co-chairman of Health 2.0, a conference organizer, and a member of EveryMove's advisory board.

"It's no longer rare for health care consumers or plan members to want to use social media and online tools on any device to improve their health care experience," Holt said in a statement.

"We're well into the medium adopter phase, and it's going to accelerate," Holt said.

Businesses in health care need to take the lead from those in retail, finance and travel, he said. "I think that the EveryMove 100 Index is going to help identify the insurers that are supporting this new consumer and will show the rest how to catch up," Holt said. "And it can't come too soon."


This article was originally published on 2013-08-29