Group Health Incorporated (GHI), a statewide not-for-profit health insurer in New York, has launched several new initiatives that improve customer service for its members, from 100% online plan enrollment to disseminating important coverage updates through brief automated phone calls.GHI has partnered with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based eHealthInsurance Inc. to enable individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance coverage with GHI online, in real time and without any printing, signing or mailing of forms. Applicants simply log on to, submit the required data, credit-card information for the first month's payment and authorize the transaction with an "e-signature." Approved applicants are covered beginning on the first day of the next calendar month.

"Online enrollment is the latest GHI offering to simplify health insurance for the consumer," says Frank Branchini, president and CEO of GHI. "Enrolling in one of GHI's plans through eHealthInsurance can reduce application processing time by as much as 50%."

GHI also recently tested the idea of communicating with its members through targeted, automated voice messages. For a pilot program, GHI asked Silverlink Communications, Burlington, Mass., to design and implement automated telephone calls which informed members of a recent change to their prescription drug formulary. The calls supplemented letters that members had already received from GHI in the mail. Approximately 7,000 calls were made. 

"We sought an outreach method where we could get the attention of our members and explain these changes in plain language," says Dr, Aran Ron, senior vice president and medical director at GHI.  "We are very pleased with the results and are now looking at other ways that we can use this technology to maximize consumer awareness."

 GHI conducted a survey of approximately 200 members who participated in the Silverlink program. Nearly 60% said they would like to receive benefit information using the same method in the future.

In additionn, WebMD Corp., an Elmwood Park, N.J.-based provider of online health information is now featured on GHI's Web site at Visitors to have access to WebMD Health's network of health information including links to hundreds of current articles featuring the latest health news, research and medical opinions, a comprehensive health encyclopedia and interactive health quizzes. Visitors simply click on the "Health and Wellness" section of the Web site which displays the WebMD logo.

Over the past year, GHI has launched a number of technological initiatives aimed at providing better service to members, providers and brokers including:

  • e-visits that enable patients and doctors to communicate online about managing chronic illness and non-emergency medical issues made possible through a three-year contract with Relay Health.
  • MyGHI eBroker Online Services which enables general agents and selling agents to access vital information and manage all aspects of their business by interacting directly with GHI on this 24-hour web portal.
  • e-prescriptions made possible through a partnership with Zix Corp., enabling physicians to electronically write prescriptions and immediately transmit them to pharmacies.
  • A relaunched and redesigned Web site with expanded consumer features including the ability to search for a doctor or specialist by name, location, languages spoken, neighborhood and hospital affiliation.

Source: Group Health Inc.

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