In Pursuit of Simplicity: Solving the Problem Of Process in the Health Insurance Industry

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By Katie Conway

The pursuit of simplicity hasn’t been easy for health insurance brands. According to independent insurance broker Policygenius, 96 percent of Americans cannot define key health insurance terms, like deductible, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum. Moreover, only 40 percent feel confident in selecting the right health insurance plan, and the millennial generation has the lowest overall understanding of health insurance terms. If Americans can’t sort through the alphabet soup of PPOs, EPOs and HMOs, there’s a clear need for simplicity in the health insurance industry.

The health insurance industry has continuously ranked as one of the world’s most complex industries. In a global comparison of industries such as retail, travel, internet and telecommunications, health insurance falls one short of the bottom category, general insurance. Kaiser Permanente, United Healthcare and Cigna rank amongst the bottom ten brands in the United States and in the United Kingdom, a region often envied for its universal health care system, the results were not much better.

Health insurance brands won’t simplify overnight, but here are some steps they can take. 

Stop overpromising: 

At the highest level, simple brands make a clear promise—and more importantly—deliver on that promise consistently. The promises made by health insurance brands are lofty: talk of partnership, ease of use and creating a health system that works for everyone. 

For anyone who has interacted with an insurance provider lately, these promises feel empty. The reality is a muddle of confusing benefits, complex jargon, multiple steps and denial of claims. It rarely feels like someone is on your side, yet health insurance brands keep trying to convince us that they are. Maybe that’s their intent, but promising something you can’t deliver does more harm than good.  

Display important information:

Internet search is rated the simplest industry in the United States because brands like Google make it easy for users to find what they’re looking for—and fast. The best search brands don’t overwhelm users with extraneous information, and instead serve up relevant results that help users achieve their goals.

As health networks become narrower, consumers increasingly rely on their insurance providers to find in-network doctors. But the search process is far from simple: there are long load times, information doesn’t help members determine which doctor is best for them and the onus is on the patient to contact the doctor. 

Providing users with useful information and enhancing the experience with functionality that creates a seamless path could go a long way in simplifying what is currently a complicated and complex experience. 

Create an easy to understand experience:

Once the information process has been simplified, the second step is ensuring said material is clear and understandable for consumers who don’t live in a world of health insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles. 

This goes beyond replacing jargon and medical terminology with plain language. While 101 tutorials are a noble effort, it’s likely they will go unread and unwatched. Instead, integrate content and call-outs throughout the member journey and tailor the experience to make it feel more relevant and personal. 

The purpose of health insurance is to create a sense of security and peace of mind for consumers, but the complexity of the industry is creating the opposite effect. If health insurance brands want to be simpler, they should take a cue from the world’s simplest industries and brands.  

A Strategy Director at Siegel+Gale, Katie approaches life and work with curiosity and openness. She believes that uncovering what is true and unique about an organization, and using it to inspire both employees and customers, is essential to a brand’s success.

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