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We recently attended the annual AHIP Consumer Experience and Digital Health Forum in Nashville. At this year’s event, there were several exciting initiatives and innovative programs highlighted that concentrated on a few clear themes. Overall, it’s an exciting time in consumer experience and the event brought new energy for continued advancement toward patient-centered design and elevated member experience.

The pandemic delivered innovation – but we can’t slide backwards

The COVID-19 pandemic gave us an unprecedented and rapid shift to digital care and, as Paul Markovic from Blue Shield of California put it, “necessity is a mother of invention.” And now that people have had access to more digital solutions, they are demanding more.

Starting with the dramatic uptick in telehealth and then accelerating other digital access points, healthcare was driven to bridge the gap between traditional and digital almost overnight. Rob Mitchell from UPMC shared how they are building on what was basic access to create an experience that makes members feel like care is local. With the onset of COVID, it became necessary to be digitally connected and UPMC had to think about how they could simultaneously roll out a digital first product without exacerbating the digital divide. They did so through a support team that educates consumers on digital literacy.

A final call to action on this point came from Tonya Adams of Regence Health Plans: we can’t let ourselves as an industry return to our areas of comfort and backslide on all the progress we made with digital tools and patient access during the pandemic. We have to continue operating differently.

Personalization makes the difference in digital experience

Personalization continues to be the cornerstone of building trust and a better experience for members. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts really exemplified this.

Steven Knight and Tonya Webster shared how they are looking at hyper personalization as the future. They pair internal data with external data, to better inform each member experience profile. They shared a great example of this:

It’s no longer adequate to be prompted– a 55 year-old diabetic who lives in Des Moines, Iowa on a journey to lower A1C. As we send that member reminders to help on that journey, it has to be personal. It needs to be: Joe, the 55 year-old diabetic in Des Moines where it’s raining today. We need to prompt: “It looks like the weather’s not conducive to going outside to exercise today, Joe. Here are some things that you can do in your household.”

This hyper-personalization is really a radical rethink and redesign of the healthcare journey a member has with their health plan. It’s also one that helps build trust between members and their health plan over time, through each interaction. Ensuring personal touch is a new way of showing up for members and earning the right to be with them. “It’s always the perfect storm of how you show up for members in the right way, in the moment that they need it.”

The time to maximize data is now

More data than ever is being captured and logged about people as they navigate their healthcare experience, from interacting with a hospital to calling a health plan customer service representative. The exciting trend emerging is that some organizations are starting to make use of all this data to build a comprehensive member journey. These data insights can be used to meet members where they are and create a more frictionless experience.

While leveraging this longitudinal view of a person digitally is key, Tonya Adams (     health plans) and Jon Burow (Independent Health) noted there is a combination of digital technology and human touch that goes into supporting members and can drive loyalty through deeper connection and personalization. Jon stated that you have to show members you know them in order to build trust. And Independent Health is working on a robust knowledge set about their members to make engagements and conversations more meaningful.

While more data than ever is being collected, there were two important points raised that need to be considered by plans on their data and personalization journey. Christina Silcox from Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy called out that we need to do a much better job of educating people about how to collect data sensitively and also educating the public about why it is important. And Jackie Ejuwa from Blue Shield of California confirmed that health plans are remembering that along with increased data, comes the need for new processes so they can be more valuable for members and providers.