Skip to main content

Health Plans Must Improve Communication with Members to Build Tool Utilization

PORTLAND, Ore. – March 5, 2015 – Seventy percent of people want tools that compare healthcare costs and quality to make informed decisions, but few health plans know how to market those tools to their members once they’re in place, according to a recent study from strategy and consulting firm Cicero Group and HealthSparq.

HealthSparq, a leading provider of healthcare comparison shopping tools, teamed with the Cicero Group to produce the study – which surveyed more than 200 health plans and more than 600 members – to discover why health plans that offer healthcare shopping tools see low utilization despite the demand.

Health plans that communicate with their members at least once a month by email see dramatically better utilization of their shopping tools – 47 percent compared with 16 percent utilization among plans that only communicate annually. That directly translates to higher satisfaction and trust rates. But only 8 percent of the health plans surveyed actually communicate with that level of frequency.

“What is clear from our study is that health plans who communicate frequently with their members are seeing higher levels of engagement, higher levels of tool usage, and ultimately higher levels of trust and satisfaction,” said Cicero Engagement Manager Chad Berbert.

The work doesn’t end at communication, however. Members still see some barriers to shopping tool usage, specifically the perception that a tool is too difficult or time consuming to use. The study also discovered members want a shopping tool tailored to their own health plan and medical conditions so they can make the most informed decision when choosing a provider or service.

“Health plans that create easy access to their tools from their website home page, and then take the time to tell members, ‘Here’s a tool that’s going to help you make smarter healthcare choices, and here’s how you use it,’ are going to see the return on the investment they made in that tool,” said Torben Nielsen, co-founder and SVP of products and strategy for HealthSparq.

Other key insights from the study include:

  • 93 percent of members said treatment cost estimators would be helpful, but only 64 percent of plans provide cost estimators.
  • Not surprisingly, members who use tools perceive transparency tools to be most helpful, compared with members who don’t know tools exist.

About HealthSparq

HealthSparq is creating a revolution in helping people make smarter, more educated choices about their healthcare. By enabling people to see the total costs of care (pre- and post-procedure included), comparison shop for procedures and providers and learn about alternative care options, HealthSparq is helping people navigate the healthcare system and shop for healthcare as they never have before.

HealthSparq’s tools allow you to compare doctors, clinics and hospitals by quality; find savings opportunities on over 400 medical treatments; see individualized procedures and costs based on your individual benefits on a treatment timeline; connect to doctors by video or phone, connect with people who are going through the same things in a dedicated community, and more.

Since our founding in 2008, from our home in Portland, Oregon, HealthSparq has grown to serve 67 health plans and their 78 million members nationwide. Interested in joining a healthcare revolution? Contact us at or tweet us @HealthSparq.

About Cicero Group

Based in Salt Lake City, Cicero Group is one of the world’s premier data-driven strategy consulting firms. With over 250 employees, Cicero conducts internal “big data” structuring and modeling, primary research and data analytics in 47 different countries and in 14 unique languages, providing data-driven management consulting to a host of leading organizations around the globe. Cicero delivers the answers to clients’ most critical and strategic questions. For additional information, visit or call 801-456-6700.