The US health insurance industry is in the midst of a tectonic shift. Since federal legislation mandated health coverage for all US citizens, health insurers have been pivoting away from pure B2B models to reinvent themselves as B2C services – and they’ve been responding to the demands of a new target group: consumers who purchase their own health insurance.
Earlier this year, we published a blog post detailing the channels customers use when purchasing health insurance. But mapping customers’ physical interactions with a company is only part of the story – understanding their emotional evolution is just as important. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, a mere 50% of consumers who purchase their own health insurance feel that the brand puts them first; others believe health insurers do what’s best for their own bottom line at the expense of customers. The former are not only emotionally satisfied, they are also loyal to their current health insurer and willing to spend on additional products and services:
If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that the Data Insights team here at Forrester has been tracking the evolution of US healthcare reform over the past three years and its implications in terms of consumer behavior, attitudes, and expectations. Our study began in July 2012, when we advised health insurance companies how to prepare for the flood of new customers entering the market. Two years later, my colleague Gina Fleming extended this analysis into Forrester’s Healthcare Segmentation, which provides a refined understanding of key customer profiles. Now, with our 2015 Consumer Technographics® Healthcare Survey just back from field, we can complement our understanding of the US consumer health insurance market with another layer of insight: the member’s journey to purchasing health insurance:
If the healthcare industry exhibited symptoms of dysfunction, the US government administered a wave of treatment in the form of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. October 2013 marked the opening of online insurance marketplaces, and set the stage for the act's requirement that most US residents have health insurance coverage. As a result, the industry has witnessed cessations and regenerations, and the pulse of consumer sentiment has fluctuated. Now, one year on, we’re due for a checkup.
At a macro level, US online consumers’ perspectives on healthcare reform today are largely consistent with those immediately preceding open enrollment under the federal law: Individuals continue to be skeptical of policy changes. However, at a micro level, subtle yet fundamental shifts in the consumer mindset signal a gradual evolution in perceptions of healthcare.
Our Technographics 360 research approach, which synthesizes Forrester’s ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community insight and aggregated social listening data, shows that the conversation about healthcare has shifted from politics to experience -- and, in particular, to a focus on cost:
The Supreme Court decision upholding virtually all of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (AKA “Obamacare”) shifted a balance for customer experience professionals in the healthcare industry. Now they — and the executives they report up to — know that it’s more risky to do nothing than to respond by taking action.
Keeping in mind that “the healthcare industry” is really three industries, here are some of the most important actions that healthcare organizations will need to take.
Health Insurance Providers (Payers)
As we point out in our upcoming book, Outside In, the health insurance industry has owned the cellar of our Customer Experience Index (CXi) since we began that study five years ago. The main reason for its dismal performance is that the CXi is a consumer study, and for health insurance providers, the customer has not been a consumer but a business — or more accurately, a person at a business, like a benefits manager.
The result was that payers didn’t need to focus much on the end users of their products — consumers — so most of them didn’t. But starting in 2014, a greater percentage of their business will come from consumers. That will drive health insurance providers to better understand consumers so they can attract and retain the healthiest ones, who are the most profitable. Payers will also want to get consumers to change their behavior as a way to keep costs down. For example, they’ll want them to opt for generic drugs and to take better care of themselves. But none of that will happen unless the health insurers build a trusting relationship by providing a far better experience than they have to date.
I'm excited that I'll be spending time with Forrester clients next week at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum 2012 East. On the second day of the forum (Wednesday, June 27th), there are two industry presentations of particular interest to healthcare industry executives: