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    Insurers can engage consumers through reviews and social collaboration

    Top sources for patient reviews chartPatients have access to vast health information sources via their smartphones, social networks and online content.  And often, consumers believe unbiased information trumps its accuracy when making many health decisions, a new survey by Accenture indicates.

    While consumers are increasingly engaged in their healthcare, don’t expect them to look to health insurers as their primary source of information for medical decisions. The survey of roughly 2,000 consumers showed most (69%) think information from health plans is steering them in a preferred direction and nearly two-thirds (65%) believe it’s difficult to apply to their situation.

    But, health organizations have the ability to shift consumer perceptions, giving them the information they want while increasing transparency. With this approach, health plans can become trusted resources for their patients, empowering them in the process.  Here’s how:

    Leverage Strengths

    Health insurers should start from a position of strength: patient reviews. When finding or qualifying a physician, about half (51%) surveyed turn to patient reviews from payers as their primary source of information. In fact, two-times more consult patient reviews from health insurers over other sources, including Doctors Review (20%), Health Grades (16%), Yelp (15%), Angie’s List (11%) and Zoc Doc (6%). This strength provides a solid foundation on which to grow and extend to other offerings.

    It’s also important for health plans to make better use of sources consumers already trust, such as trained care managers (61 percent) or someone facing a similar health issue (57%), and consider how to better equip them to serve in an advisory role and help simplify decision-making. For instance, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield offers a telephone-based support service that provides members with 24/7 access to a care advocate to help in finding a doctor, scheduling a provider appointment, transfering medical records, and receiving other services.

    Engage Patients

    Health plans can also engage patients by facilitating social collaboration. For example, UK-based Big White Wall helps individuals work through mental health challenges by anonymously connecting them to others facing a similar issue. It also offers users support communities, clinical tests, tracking tools and live care professionals through video conferencing. Ninety-five percent of Big White Wall users have reported feeling better because of using the platform.

    As consumers access and act on health plan information, they'll begin to see them as a trusted source and enable insurers to tailor engagement to the patient’s needs. 

    Enable Action

    Health organizations have the ability to shift consumer perceptions and influence behavioral change. One approach using the Fogg Behavioral Model suggests that three converging elements –motivation, ability and trigger -- must happen at the same moment for a behavior to occur. Using this as a guide, insurers can identify what prevents members from engaging in targeted behaviors. A company called Change Healthcare, for example, uses personalized alerts tor proactively engage members to take action and interact with their site. They persuaded 60% of their members to receive a proactive alert, log in, and take action, and they are six times more likely to shop for care after this outreach occurs.

    As health plans work to provide a robust variety of options for consumers to learn about their own care and become more engaged, it’s important to remember that different patients have different needs. Starting from a position of strength provides a foundation for growth as consumers engage and act on their health. The more healthcare plans learn how and when to give guidance, the more consumers accept input as part of their own decision-making process.

    Jean-Pierre Stephan
    Jean-Pierre Stephan is managing director for customer relationship management solutions, Accenture Health.

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