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In most of today’s service provider industries, companies gain advantages over their competitors with strategic positioning. Businesses look for ways to innovate in how they offer payment methods, price reductions, and value propositions. And while this concept of focusing on the consumer experience, with technology like self-service tools, has been a pillar of most service-related segments, it’s now becoming the primary focus within health insurance circles. 

Health insurance providers are shifting their focus to consumers and enrollees. Of course, customers have always been the target for insurers. But some of the more traditional strategies focused on developing health plans in direct response to competitors or in a way that simply met government requirements, Marketplace guidelines, and profit margin objectives. Today’s shifting focus demonstrates that the health insurance industry is now embracing consumer preferences and engagement at a higher rate. Prioritizing self-service payment options, cost transparency, and sampling price reductions, many health plan providers are clearly looking to serve the needs of the health insurance shopping consumer in a more authentic and transparent way. 

Transparency in Health Plans 

The transparency in the healthcare pricing movement will help consumers make better and more informed decisions about their care and plans. Earlier this year, CMS enacted a new transparency rule for hospitals, requiring them to make standard charges public regarding various products and services. Using tech-based self-service tools, hospitals are attempting to shift their focus to consumer information and engagement because of this requirement. 

In making costs available to consumers, healthcare providers are also making their prices available to industry competitors. Healthcare analysts suggest this step alone will inspire a healthier competitive market, driving overall expenses down and equating to more affordable healthcare services. Consumers ultimately would be the primary beneficiaries and be capable of making more informed decisions about their healthcare when they better understand the costs of various health-related services. And it’s this side effect of transparency that is now making more sense for health insurance plan providers, as well. 

Self-Service Tools & Better Consumer Engagement 

In today’s digital-driven environment, there isn’t a business segment that isn’t looking for a better way to connect with consumers online and via their mobile devices. Providing self-service tools is one solution strategy already proving lucrative for bottom-line company revenues. It only makes sense that health insurance organizations and providers leverage the same tools to innovate the way Americans shop and enroll in their plans, and manage their healthcare costs. 

Consumers prefer self-service solutions to help them do everything from ordering dinner to buying a car. And the pandemic conditions of the last year have forced many companies to pivot core strategies to embrace these virtual engagements. Some of the everyday self-service examples that have been around for years include ATMs, supermarket barcode scanning, and online banking. Kiosks are commonplace now, too, at the airport, at the car dealership, and in many major retailers. In the healthcare segment, consumers are also now scheduling physician appointments, connecting with pharmacies, and engaging in telehealth services all from their mobile devices and via self-service channels. 

Digital self-service tools benefit both consumers and organizations alike. At the company level, these self-service business intelligence (BI) tools provide better data and analytics needed to drive improved engagements. Consumers enjoy self-service options because they can quickly get answers to their most pressing questions and take immediate, next-step actions on their own time. The processes are more efficient, allowing for a more streamlined and favorable experience. 

Consumers have been hungry for better self-service capabilities with their healthcare and health insurance engagements for some time now. Strategy & Price shared survey results from 2016 that suggested healthcare consumers wanted basic tech options from their providers and plans to help them make enrollment and care decisions. Back then, they were asking for out-of-pocket cost calculators, claims submission automation, online payment portals, and access to their personal health records. 

The Sidecar Health Example 

Mobile Health News recently featured a story about a health insurance-based startup called Sidecar Health. And this insurance contender came out of the gate with $40 million in funding and a focus on price reduction, transparency, and self-service engagement. The strategy centers around improved cost transparency and self-pay service rates. Of course, to be more attractive to potential enrollees, Sidecar Health also offers significant price reductions. 

The primary app behind the engagement strategy allows users to tap into a price comparison tool as they customize coverage options and amounts. And members can pay with the company’s point of service feature, confirmed by uploading a picture of the invoice. Sidecar Health is focusing entirely on improving overall accessibility and reducing associated costs for coverage. Company leadership recognized that customers were overwhelmed with jargon when trying to understand their health plans and burdened with surprise out-of-pocket charges. They devised what they believe to be the solution to these pain points, using self-service tools, offering significant price reductions, and improving transparency. 

Taking a Page from the Health & Transparency App Book 

Health insurance providers across the industry are recognizing the importance of these consumer engagement strategies and tools. Consumer-facing health and transparency apps have been around for a while but are even more attractive today. Some are using virtual insurance card apps, while others introduce apps designed to help consumers find the costs of basic procedures. Self-service portals are allowing consumers to check eligibility and manage claims. And there is a surge in companies looking to develop apps focused on transparency in insurance, coverage plans, and more in-depth options. Making the shopping, enrolling, and management of health insurance affordable and easy to use is the way forward to bottom-line insurer ROI. 

As a company driven by the health insurance market, your business might be ready to forge improvements in the form of self-service tools, transparency initiatives, and price reductions. Let Softheon be your trusted partner in today’s digital engagement-driven environment. As a SaaS, BPaaS, and solutions provider, Softheon can help transform your strategy to meet the needs of the tech-savvy consumer. When the challenges become complex, the Softheon team can simplify objectives and integrate seamless solutions. The health insurance industry is rushing to develop apps and self-service methods, and we can help you get ahead, as well.