Health Insurance industry in post reform B2C world

The federally facilitated exchanges and the defined contribution models will shift the business-to-business (b2b) focus towards business-to-consumer (b2c). In the consumer market the brands and the perception they create are the primary influencers in purchase decisions.

Let’s say there are two laptops showcased, a MacBook Air and a no brand laptop, both costing $100. If you have $100 dollars to spare, chances are you will go for the MacBook air. Apple products provide a visual cognition creating a sense that “it is simple, stylish and easy to use.”  This is the power of the brand perception.

Why brands will matter in the post reform world

The way things have played out in the past year, the full scale implementation of healthcare reform is inevitable. This implementation will bring in more choices, plans and options which means competition.

When there is not much wiggle room in price discounts, the fight for market share is fought on the basis of brand recognition, quality, perks and tools. And you cannot provide effective tools or services if you don’t have an effective website.

In an era where consulting a printed version of yellow pages attracts weird look,; the primary source of local business look-up and brand equity has effectively been relocated to the virtual world of the Internet. Essentially, it is getting to a point where if you are not on the web, you don’t exist.

I have known friends who feel so strongly about the web presence that they would not consider a medical practice legitimate if it does not have a virtual presence and would not feel comfortable getting their services.

Mobile applications, social media and consumer behavior analytics will be among the top trends for 2013.

Mobile applications

Mobile applications will matter in the healthcare business because its benefits are twofold. Health plans will see cost reductions by going paperless and offering the content on the mobile and on the web, while the subscribers will have important tools, documents and information under their fingertips.

Given the fact that users want to have access to their accounts whenever and wherever they want, the mobile perks will weigh in the purchase decision at the exchanges.

Multiple lines of communications

In a social media survey conducted by Health Research Institute (HRI) nearly 36 percent of the participants said they expect to receive an answer within a few hours. Although a small percentage at this time, the number of users who share this expectation is growing.

Having a simple customer service number and a contact us page will not cut it anymore. We will need to utilize the power of social media just as we use our communication forms through our websites. Having a solid representation on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can show the world that your business cares and is responsive to the needs of its customers.

User behavior analytics

The healthcare industry will have to implement the same analytical practices as by the likes of consumer stores as Lowes and JCPenny. User behavior, web and mobile usage patterns and communication data can be used to carve out a personalized experience and products to improve overall experience. If properly mined, the data can also be used in predictive analysis.

Blogs and vlogs

Blogs and vlogs can be used as an effective means of educational tools. They convey important information such as the weather inside the company, new tools that are coming out and the atmosphere in the overall industry.

Blogs can benefit both the company and the customer by providing valuable information before the purchase has been made. Going back to my Apple computers example, if I had told you that because of your particular need of developing in Microsoft technologies the Apple laptop is not suitable for you, your decision might have been different; you would have purchased the no brand laptop over the MacBook.

Educating buyers before they visit health exchanges is important is because the majority of the population is not proficient in the medical lingo and need help deciding what to buy.

Bottom line

This is a golden opportunity for the healthcare industry to jump on the bandwagon and embrace their relation with their users on a whole new level. While the majority of the patients believe the mobile technology will reduce cost and increase quality, there are still good number of health plans and physicians who perceive social media and the mobile technology as being disruptive to their traditional processes.

We need to understand that despite our favorable or unfavorable opinions about the new models, the change is coming and is inevitable. If we won’t welcome the innovation, our competitors will!

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