The COVID-19 pandemic has not only made health insurance a more urgent concern for business and HR leaders, but also focused their attention on digital health benefits that went largely unused before the pandemic.
In April, 43.5% of Medicare members used telehealth services — up from 0.1% in February. It’s safe to say the percentages would be similar among group and individual plan members — especially after many group plans waived cost-sharing for telehealth visits during spring lockdowns.
Most plans have been offering telehealth and other digital services, for years now. COVID simply made members more aware of the benefits, and helped anyone who had qualms about receiving care virtually to get over them.
Whether they had qualms or not, most of them apparently liked that they saw: more than a quarter of American workers now say they’d be willing to leave their jobs for a company that offers digital health benefits.
From basic tools like telehealth to innovative new apps that use digital therapeutics to help manage chronic pain, digital benefits have often gone largely unused for a variety of reasons. The biggest obstacle was health plans’ inexperience in communication directly with their members.
That’s partly because employers did most of the communicating, but neither plans nor HR departments have historically been very effective at letting members know what benefits were available or how to use them.
By improving that communication, health plans can take advantage of COVID-19’s disruption to drive up benefit utilization — and to drive sales and retention as business and HR leaders look closely at not only what digital tools are included in their plans, but at how they can encourage their employees to manage their health safely, and at a lower cost, during the pandemic and beyond.
The plans that can reach the right members at the right times through the right channels will have the greatest success at increasing utilization — and at gaining and protecting market share.
Right Members, Right Time, Right Channels
Most plans today offer at least a basic set of digital benefits — telehealth, wearables, provider searches and the like. Many also offer more sophisticated tools like online nurse chats, concierge services that help navigate the system and healthcare knowledge bases that offer more curated, trustworthy health information than a Google search.