Health insurance customers want better apps, more telehealth

Health insurance beneficiaries generally are dissatisfied with the apps that their insurers are providing, according to a new study by J.D. Power.

Other findings from the large national study show that respondents believe insurers should widen the availability of telehealth coverage.

The company, which specializes in gauging consumer satisfaction across a variety of industries, says its 2019 Commercial Member Health Plan Study is based on the responses of more than 28,000 commercial health plan members from January through March this year.

Customer satisfaction is up overall, the study found—and has been for the past three years. However, members want better customer service, and they expect it to come through the use of technology. Members want to see lower co-pays for physician office visits and better coordination of care between different providers and care settings, and some respondents say they believe that better apps and telehealth could alleviate the situation.

"Health plans are doing a good job managing the operational aspects of their businesses, but they are having a harder time addressing the expectations members have based on their experiences in other industries, where their service needs are more effectively addressed with better technology," says James Beem, managing director of Global Healthcare Intelligence at J.D. Power. "[O]nce [members] start looking to their health plans for guidance in areas like navigating issues related to cost or when to use primary care vs. urgent care, many plans miss the mark on customer expectations."

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The study of health insurers surveys members from 146 U.S. health plans in 22 regions on categories that include billing and payment, cost, coverage and benefits, customer service, information and communication, provider choice, experience, and member engagement.

This year, the survey gave health plans an overall satisfaction rating of 713 on a 1,000-point scale—up seven points from last year. The increase was likely driven by improved satisfaction with coverage and benefits, which generally always accounts for 25 percent of total health plan member satisfaction, J.D. Power says.

Overall satisfaction scores are 254 points higher when members perceive their plan is actively trying to keep out-of-pocket costs down, coordinate care and ensure there is enough coverage. This year, 54 percent of the members told researchers that their plan delivers on each of these criteria, according to J.D. Power.

Interest in telehealth is high, the study found—some 48 percent of those surveyed saying they are either “very” or “somewhat likely” to consider telehealth options. Members also said they thought telehealth could alleviate difficulties with access to care. Younger members were even more likely to support telehealth, with 51 percent of members between the ages of 25 and 42 in favor of it.

In addition, the study said digital access to personal health data and improved coordination of care could encourage further use of these lower-cost treatment channels.

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