How Does Monty Python Explain Healthcare Consumerism?

I was trying to explain to my dad what a consultant is.  I said, “Think of executives as blindfolded people in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there. A consultant is the person who finds the cat.”

I have had the good fortune to have worked in over twenty countries and in forty-eight states.  And to get to all of those places I flew, and when we were done flying we always ended up in an airport because that is how things work when you have a good pilot.  Today I was in Seattle’s airport.  That airport has something I have never seen anywhere else.  In fact, it has something that had I been sitting around with a bunch of friends and trying to come up with something odd to put in an airport, we would have never thought of adding this thing if we had sat for the next hundred years.

Across the walkway from me a woman was filling her water bottle from the water fountain that was attached to the concourse wall.  I was standing thirty feet away from her. In spite of the cacophony going on around me I could hear the water from the fountain gurgling clearly, as it was dispensed from the fountain’s mouthpiece into her empty Evian bottle.  The source of the sound wasn’t something I recognized immediately. Only after a few seconds did I understand that I was hearing was water running.  I looked up and down the concourse, left and right, searching for the source of the water sounds.  There was no obvious source, but the sound of running water remained as clear as a bell.

The gurgling sound appeared to be coming from the wall across the concourse.  Only then did I spot the water fountain.  When the woman released the fountain’s handle the water stopped and so did the sound.  She turned the handle and the sound resumed.  It wasn’t until she had finished filling her bottle and walked away that I was able to see the speaker.  It had been built into the wall directly under the fountain.

There was no reason to share this with you other than the fact that I did not want to be the only one obsessing about the water.  Staying with the water theme—continuing to obsess—and hoping my obsession might lead eventually to a series of rambling that I may be able to turn into to a blog, as I walked towards my gate I passed a seafood restaurant.  Painted on the sign above the restaurant was  a picture of a fish.  It does not matter what type of fish is was.  The background of the sign was blue.  I assumed the blue color was supposed to represent water.  The reason I assumed the fish was in water was because I knew that other than in the seafood section of a grocery store, water is usually where one finds fish.  I stared at the fish.  The fish stared back at me, and smiled the way a fish smiles when it has been laying on ice all day.

If your mind works like mine—and we do not have the time to debate whether my mind actually works—you are probably beginning to see how this is all coming together.  I haven’t figured it out yet, but I want you to know I am working really hard to make sure you are not wasting your time reading this.  As I looked up at the fish one of the voices in my head made me ask myself if the fish knew it was in the water.  Then the voice asked whether fish, in general, have any knowledge of or understanding of water?  Do fish even know they are wet?  I concluded they probably don’t, but I cannot prove it.

Because I have an MBA, or perhaps in spite of that fact, I know that among the phyla (pl. phylum) of animals, fish are considered to be pretty good at swimming.  Perhaps that is because that when they are not on ice they spend most of their free time in water.  And swimming is probably some sort of a survival trait if you are a fish.  I know for sure it is if you are not a fish. (The entire flow of this piece is starting to remind me of the Monty Python skit about migrating coconuts.)

Do fish know they are swimming?  Do they even understand the concept of swimming? Asked the voice.  Sometimes I wish the voice would leave me alone.

So, and here we go, can we be very good at doing something we do not understand?  I think the answer is unequivocally ‘no’.  Then the voice asked whether we can be very good at doing something we have only observed, something we have never experienced.  For example, the voice postulated, whether a fish, if said fish had observed a person walking, could translate what it saw into its being able to walk.  (There are those living among us who believe that millions of years ago fish walked out of the water, and evolved into humans.)

I think those who believers are the very same people who when they smile, look the way a fish smiles that has been on ice all day.  Now, if it is true that if over millions of years of evolution, and the inability of fish to access cable television during those years, that in some inane interpretation of the survival of the fittest, resulted in fish walking from the sea, then so be it.  And if that same meshing of the roiling of the essential gasses created the biped 101 which needed Nike’s to protect their feet…yada, yada, yada…somehow explains why a small faction of today’s humanoids like to listen to Celine Dion, does the fact that today we do not observe fish walking mean the evolutionary clock is moving backwards?)

If we cannot be very good at doing something we do not understand, and if we cannot be very good at doing something we have never experienced, does that explain why customer experience is often so pathetic?  I have spent thirty years speaking with executives—those looking for the black cat that isn’t there—about innovation customer experience from the perspective of the customer.  And those conversations have always left me confused.  “Is providing a good customer experience a tenet of your organization?” I have ask them.  I have never had an executive tell me that providing an excellent customer experience wasn’t a business imperative.  When I ask, “Does your organization provide customers with good experiences?”  To a fault they answer ‘yes’.

I think their answers explains why customer experience is so bad.  The number of people in your organization who really understand customer experience would fit in a Hyundai.  And all of the people work in your call center.  The only time the other people understand customer experience is when they are experiencing a bad customer experience.

The big disconnect regarding customer experience is that employees of your organization never think of themselves as customers of your organization.  Can your executives understand what they have not experienced?  Based on the experiences I have seen, I am convinced the answer is no.  For your executives to actually understand how customer experience functions in your organization, they would have to experience it.  Knowing your firm has a call center, or walking through the call center, does not cut it.

I believe the thinking in most organizations must go something like this.  Customers call.  Our people spend time in our call center answering those calls. Therefore, we must be good at customer experience.  QED.  That assumption is no truer than assuming that making someone spend a night sleeping in their pool would make them a good swimmer.

This concept is self-proving.  Go to your health system’s website.  Did you have a good experience? If all you wanted to do was to learn what time the gift shop opened, your experience may have been okay.  Call the number shown on the home page of your health system’s website, tell the person who answers your call that you just moved to town, and ask them to schedule an appointment with a specialist the next day.  If you do not come away from that call feeling wowed—and you won’t—then you must conclude that neither will any of the other callers.

Adding valet parking, or proudly serving Starbucks, will not improve the customer experience.  For those things to matter, your customer must actually make it to your facility.  Consumers—potential customers, who never made it past your website or call center are no longer potential customers.  They are somebody else’s customers.  They will get their Starbucks at another hospital.

Most customer leakage, perhaps higher than ninety-percent of it, happens before consumers become customers.  Your executives do not understand the experiences of consumers who are exploring becoming your customers because they have no knowledge of the experience.  Your executives have no more knowledge of how many customers leaked during their first interaction with your firm than they have of the number of people who drove past their house while they were sleeping.

We’ve come full circle—water fountain, fish, and swimming pool.  (And some people believe I couldn’t create something out of nothing.)

Three illustrations involving water.  And the Lord spake, saying, “First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once at the number three, being the third number to be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.

How Does A Customer Portal Outperform A Patient Portal? In Every Way!

I have had a few recent conversations with healthcare executives who have asked the question, “Why are we even discussing adding an interactive Customer Portal since we spent millions of dollars building a patient portal?”

That is a great question.  And there is a great answer that drives home the point.  The Customer Portal, designed in a UX/UI framework, can be designed to do everything that can be done with a patient portal, and dozens of things the patient portal will never be able to do.  Plus, and it is a very big plus, the Customer Portal will serve all of a health system’s stakeholders, not just those individuals whose data happens to be in the EMR.  A consumer Portal will help drive population health. And it will help convert consumers to patients.

Each of the features listed under the Customer Portal column can be designed and built today.  Please let me know what you think, and what additional features you would add.

portal picture comparison

Does Accessing Your Healthcare Provider Or Payer Just Ruin Your Day?

I always thought I hated flying, and then it occurred to me that what I hated was other people flying on my flight.  Flying, especially flying coach, is a bad experience.  With bad experiences you only have two options; you can change the firm providing the service, or you can try to change the experience.  I’ve tried changing carriers, but they are all equally poor.

I am flying coach from Philadelphia to Seattle—five hours and forty-one minutes of teeth-gnawing angst.  I knew that to avoid having my neighbors being interviewed by CNN and saying things like, “He was always so polite.  We didn’t know he even owned a gun,” I had to create my own experience.  I am assigned a window seat near the rear of the plane. I place a rubber, orange roadside construction cone in the middle seat next to me to indicate that seat is closed for repairs.

Once the plane passed through ten thousand feet I begin to work to improve my experience.  A calming composition of Albinoni’s was playing through my Bose Bluetooth headphones. From the overhead bin I retrieved my luggage. Next I taped a message to the large orange cone, “Please wait for Flight Attendant to seat you.” I release the catch to the table on the seatback in front of me, and on the table I laid the large, white linen napkin I borrowed the last time I was seated in first class.  The small, glass salt and pepper shakers, also borrowed from a prior first class flight, rested on the napkin.

From my luggage I withdrew a chilled salad bowl, dinner plate, plastic tumbler, and hijacking-proof plastic utensils. A small crowd had begun to gather in the aisle.  The smaller of the two Tupperware containers in my luggage held chilled hearts of palm and asparagus.  The larger container held my entrée, an eight ounce portion of poached sea bass, grilled Brussel sprouts, and quinoa.  I plated my meal while the guy in the aisle seat began to count the number of peanuts in the small cellophane bag he had been given by the flight attendant. I politely asked the waitress to fill my tumbler with ice, and to that I added a miniature of Grey Goose and a splash of tonic.

The experience, any experience is what you make of it.  The problem with most healthcare access experiences is they were never designed.  You go the website of your provider or payer—that was a waste of my time, you tell yourself.  Then you break into a cold sweat before you call your provider or your payer, you simply know your experience over the next several minutes is going to ruin your day.  You ask yourself, “Have none of their executives ever called their own company?”

Is it that they do not care that the experience they offer is so poor, or is it that they simply do not know how poor it is?  I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they don’t know.  But then I think, it is their job to know.

How Can Twizzlers Innovate Healthcare Consumerism In Your Health System?

I try to avoid thinking too hard about problems.  I have found that not thinking, when done properly, creates a pleasant numbing sensation in the brain.  There are those who will tell you that not thinking is one of my best attributes.

So this is how I’ve organized this anthill.

A healthcare provider’s opportunity to succeed at consumerism is approaching the eleventh hour.  The bad thing about the eleventh hour is that you never know when it is a quarter to, you only know when it’s five after, and counting.  Regarding healthcare consumerism, could a bag of red Twizzlers the biggest material difference between your consumerism efforts failing and succeeding at your health system?

Are you out of your mind Paul?

When I evaluate the CVS healthcare retail healthcare model as represented by the Minute Clinic three things stand out:

  • CVS has customers (prospective patients), not patients
  • Their customers do not have appointments, they simply show up
  • Their customers become patients, are evaluated, and receive care

Healthcare provider executives are asking, “How can we imitate the CVS consumerism model?”  My response to them is, “You already are, you just aren’t doing it very well.”

Hospitals imitate the CVS retail healthcare model 365 days a year, twenty-four hours a day.  It is called the Emergency Department.

  • Customers and patients come in
  • Neither the customers or the patients have appointments, they simply show up
  • The customers become patients, are evaluated, and receive care

The health system emergency department has evolved into a dual-care model; emergency medicine and retail medicine.  The evolution has resulted in more and more customers using the ED like a Minute Clinic.

The evolution to a dual-care system has placed tremendous burdens on emergency care.  That evolution accounts for why many emergency departments are constantly reengineering themselves, posting wait times, and spending a fortune implementing six-sigma projects.  And to what end?  The more efficient your ED becomes, the more retail customers flock to it.

You and I know there is no point asking me to reengineer your ED.  At least that is what I thought before I started writing this piece.  But the more I thought about it the more it occurred to me that I could make a suggestion that would benefit the ED, benefit the real ED patients, benefit your customers—people who don’t have an emergency who just want to be seen by a medical professional, and the people in your health system who are tasked with acquiring new patients—marketing.  I am correct, your time reading this will have been well spent.  If I am wrong, I am sure I will hear from you.

Every provider already has a steady stream of non-ED patients who only require the level of treatment provided by a Minute Clinic.  Wouldn’t it make sense for providers to set aside a few hundred square feet of space and direct those customers who don’t require emergency care to another area so they can be seen by a clinician?  Wouldn’t that enable the ED to be more effective?  And if it was determined that the clinic patients needed urgent care services, you have a doozey right around the corner.

And what about all of your other facilities?  Could some of them adapt to this model?  Probably.

The ED of one of my clients was seeing around a hundred asthmatic patients every day.  The vast majority of those patients did not need emergency care.  Some needed refills, some needed instruction on how to use a nebulizer.  We recommended they set up an asthma clinic right next to the ED.  And it worked.

What are the benefits of co-locating a Minute Clinic concept next to the ED?

  • It frees up the ED for those who require emergency care
  • It converts clinic customers into new patients in your health system
  • And it does so at a very low Customer Exertion Score:
    • Customers do not have to wait until their PCP can see them
    • Customers do not have to call
    • Customers do not have to make an appointment
    • Customers have immediate access to care
    • Customers pay only a copay, not ED rates

It makes sense to me.  But then again it should since it’s my idea.  Decide amongst yourselves if this idea is worth exploring—if the decision is close, you may wish to reach a conclusion based on style points.  Maybe that deafening noise I am hearing is the sound of all of the pieces falling into place.  And if you want to give your clinic more of a CVS feeling, consider adding a candy aisle.

For those who may be wondering how to talk for ten minutes without using a word that contains the letter ‘A’, just start counting…one, two, three.

Healthcare Consumerism: “We Are Not In That Business”…Why Not?

The very first thing you say when communicating an idea has everything to do with whether your audience will pay attention to the rest of your message.  For example, if you are writing a suspense novel a good first sentence might be, “The man sitting across from me in the diner did not know he had less than ten minutes to live.”  If the man was truly enjoying his breakfast during those last ten minutes, another good opening sentence might be, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”—but somebody already used that line.

When presenting and idea to a hostile audience it doesn’t do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations.  Sometimes you can get lead your audience to where you want them to go by leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.  There are times, however, when the audience looks like they are still trying to figure out why Gilligan never got off the island.  That is when you know leaving a trail of breadcrumbs won’t suffice, and you the only way you can get them to follow your train of thought is by leaving entire loaves of bread.

During my last presentation I should have hijacked an entire bakery.  A woman in the front row kept shaking her head each time I spoke.  She was slim and trim, poised and preppy, and had the look of someone of keen intellect—the final step in the evolution of the species; or perhaps she was supposed to have been in the Wellesley Tri-Delta sorority reunion across the hall. I was trying my best to explain that healthcare consumers’ use of technology in other industries is what created healthcare’s driving force towards consumerism.  She looked at me as though I had suggested subliminally that she should assassinate the president of Colombia. I did not know if she was going to faint, cry, or ask for asylum in Iowa.  Though I thought she and I were on the same journey, I had overlooked the fact that she may not have been issued a roadmap.

Her behavior had usurped what little poise I had. “You’re not really into complex sentence structures, are you?” I thought of asking her, and then I said, “If you display the slides in reverse order it says ‘Paul is dead.’” (For those of you who didn’t grow up listening to the Beatles you may have to Google the allegory.)

Trying to explain healthcare’s immediate need to move towards consumerism to some people is like trying to explain the idea of cholesterol to a Big Mac; they don’t get it.  Judging from the looks of some members of my audience I realized I could have communicated the idea of consumerism better had I displayed a single slide depicting the game Wheel of Fortune, and prefilled the slide with C, O, N, S, U, M, E, R, I, S, _, leaving them wondering whether they needed to buy a vowel.  I mentally texted myself to start my next presentation with something more upbeat like the music, Ride of the Valkyries.

There is a worn military expression which states the diversion you are ignoring is really the main attack. I suggest respectfully to the provider community that healthcare consumerism is not a diversion or a feint; it is the main attack.

I displayed a slide showing how healthcare consumers expect to be able to interact with their providers.  Click-to-buy.  Twenty-four-seven access.  Up-to-date records of all interactions and real-time health data. (The concept sort of follows a generalized retail business model, but that is the idea because their model works.)  If you count yourself among the healthcare consumerism misanthropes you may be better served by opting out of the rest of this blog.

“Have you ever seen the model you are describing being used by a provider?”  A gentleman in the back row asked.

“No,” I replied. “But I’ve never seen my pancreases either, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

The most material difference between retail firms approaching healthcare from the perspective of consumers, and healthcare providers approaching patient acquisition and retention from the antediluvian perspective of the new-kids-on-the-block, the new-kids are actually adding customers hand over fist. If you do the math, they are actually adding customers hand over fist, and hand over fist…and so forth.

And here’s my point—yes, it took me a while, but hopefully it was worth the wait.

So, if you are a provider executive, or a board member of a provider, you should be screaming at someone.

Most of the people in your health system’s radius of service, the population you serve—think population health management—are regularly spending their healthcare dollars everywhere else but with you, spending it on retail providers.

Perhaps you are thinking, “We can’t make money testing people for strep throat.” CVS has a line of dump trucks carting away the money they are making from performing those tests.  Provider executives vehemently decried they are not in the business of healthcare consumerism. And they are correct in their declarations.  They aren’t.

Maybe they should be.

Healthcare Consumerism: Amazon, Nordstrom & Aetna–Who Is The Odd Man Out?

If you were asked what the biggest difference is between the game of chess and playing poker, how you respond? In most games of poker, the players are the only ones can see their own cards.  In chess, you and your opponent both see the same thing.  You see their pieces, and they see yours.

Yet which game is more deceptive?  I believe chess is far more deceptive than poker even though you can see everything.  The only thing you cannot see is what is going on in your opponent’s head.  The entire strategy of your opponent’s play is too try involve you in an intellectual sleight of hand, to believe he or she is going to do something other than what he has planned.  Their goal is to convince you to alter your strategy to defend a phantasmal strategy. And you know that is what you are doing, but if your opponent is better than you, you won’t be able to stop yourself from falling into their trap.

Now permit me to ask, how would you respond if you were asked to describe the biggest difference between your healthcare organization and other top companies?  Amazon. Disney.  FedEx and UPS. Nordstrom. Southwest Airlines.  Apple.  Marriott and Hilton.

Those companies are on lists; on multiple lists.  The health system you work for, or the health plan you work for are not on those lists.  Neither are the providers you use for treatment, or the payers you use.  And they are a long way from even being considered.

The most respected companies. The most customer-friendly companies.  Ritz Carlton is not on the list.  Neither are American Express or Coca-Cola.  Nor Aetna, Cigna, Hopkins, or the Cleveland Clinic.

Missing in action.  The difference between the best companies and your employer, between them and your provider or payer is not that your companies are not on the lists of the best companies.  The lists simply serve as scorecards.  The difference is that none of the firms in other businesses are trying to imitate how healthcare firms run their businesses.

The best firms got to be the best as a result of deliberate, exacting business strategies.  Other companies figure out what the best firms are doing, and then they try to apply that business model to theirs.

None of the companies in other industries try to imitate the business strategies of the best providers or the best payers—assuming that phrase even makes sense. There has never been a strategy meeting during which someone states, “We need to change our consumerism approach to be more like Aetna’s.”

The business strategies of the best firms are built around supercharging the notion of consumerism. I define consumerism as giving the purchasing power and the decision-making to customers and potential customers.

The most consumer-friendly firms do not even have call centers for people to call.  Why?  Because those firms engineered away all of the business processes that would cause people to call. The vast majority of inbound calls to every company are initiated because something that should have been done correctly further upstream of the call wasn’t.

Take Amazon as an example.  There are no phone numbers for customer service. There is no one to call to ask questions or to resolve complaints.  That is not because there are no questions or complaints, but because Amazon designed an interactive, online customer portal to meet every one of their customers’ needs.  And even without a call center, or in spite of not having a call center, Amazon is rated as the most customer-friendly firm in the U.S.  Amazon’s customer portal, when viewed from the perspective of their customers, is the face of the company.  Everything happens through the portal.

If healthcare began tomorrow with a full-court press to design and implement a consumerism business model, one that includes a customer portal and a mobile strategy, it would take two years for healthcare just to be able to do what the best firms were doing five years ago.  Health care is so far behind the consumerism curve that it can’t even see the curve.

Your firm’s executives can say “We are not in the consumerism business.”  And technically, they would be correct.  However, being correct and being right are different things.

Healthcare consumerism may or may not be essential to providers with regard to patients in the ED, at least for ED patients with a real emergency.  People seeking treatment for a real emergency don’t have time to worry about the wait times posted on your website; heck, they don’t even have time to visit your website.  When I was gazing at the ceiling of the ambulance while being rushed to the hospital, I was not asked to which hospital I wanted to go.  We simply went.  This was no time to discuss patient experience or issues surrounding consumerism.

Giving the purchasing power and the decision-making to customers and potential customers. What happens if your organization doesn’t give it?  Customers will take it anyway, or they will find an organization that does give it.

Come Visit The Dark Side: Payer Customer Experience

I was running. The temperature was 86 degrees, and the humidity was not far behind.  Another degree or two and my body might emit a solar flare.  Nine miles into my run I was at the crest of a bridge that was closed for repairs, and I was leaning over the guardrail trying to catch my breath. To my surprise, a state policeman pulled over alongside me.

“What are you doing?”  He asked, a tone of concern in his voice.

Since I was trying to cross the bridge, I thought about asking the officer if his question was like why did the chicken cross the road, but he did not look like a chicken crossing the road kind of guy.

“Are you okay? You don’t look okay.”

“I’m fine. Why did you pull over?” I asked.

“We got some calls about a guy on the bridge who looked depressed. Are you thinking of jumping?”

“Jumping what?”

“Jumping off the bridge. Are you sure you are okay? You look depressed.” I saw that a small flotilla of various types of watercraft had begun to anchor some eighty feet below me.  The boat closest to me had unfurled a banner with the inscription, Epic: It’s Only Money.  The initials on the boat next to them spelled CMS.  The passengers on both of those boats were chanting “Jump, jump, jump.”  Was it something I said?

“I think I look like I just ran nine miles.” I placed my leg gingerly on the guardrail in an attempt to stretch my hamstring.

“Take your foot off the rail,” he commanded. “I was about to call for a helicopter in case we had to pull you out of the water. Are you sure you are okay?”

I was going to ask the trooper if his helicopter would give me a ride back to my house, but he didn’t look like a give me a ride back kind of guy. “May I continue across?”

“No, you can’t; the bridge is being repaired.”  The idea of jumping was looking better by the minute.

So…that was my day.

The CEO of a large health system left me a voice mail while I was running stating, “You are a refreshing thought leader and voice of reason in an industry with too few of each.”  That was kind of him, especially since I think many people find my op-eds to be more akin to someone in a crowded theater shouting the sky is falling.

Today’s op-ed is heavy on the Op, less so on the Ed.  The topic is one few people dare to tread.  It is not spoken of in polite company.

Health plan customer experience; Webster defines it as “An oxymoron.”

Now before you start throwing metaphorical tomatoes at your monitor, may we consider the evidence?  First, think about the last time you called your payer about something.  About anything. Chances are you has to psyche yourself up just to make the call.  Did you end the call thinking their business goal was to meet all of your needs?  Of course not.

There is a saying, “When they tell you it’s not about the money, it is always about the money.”  Payer television commercials, show Stepford-like families frolicking in a park.  Birds are chirping.  Kites are flying. Life is wonderful because that family’s has health insurance from such-and-such a firm.  When payers advertise how blissful life can be under their tutelage it is because reality has forced them to paint that picture.

Take for example the Medical Loss Ratio rule, the rule that generally requires health insurance companies to spend eighty-percent of the premium dollars they collect to improve healthcare quality.  Now ask yourself this—why was the rule created?  Was it because the payers were spending too much money improving healthcare quality?  Did someone say, “Whoa, you are paying way too much improving your customers’ health?  Save some of it for yourselves.”

Payers need us to believe they wake up each morning wondering “Who can we help today.”  If a single payer had that as their strategy they would own one hundred percent of the market.  If that was their strategy their call centers would need fewer agents because millions of customers would not be calling to dispute partially claims.  Instead, those millions of customers would be baking brownies for the payers’ employees and naming their children after their executives.

I was reviewing some call center performance data of one of the call centers of a very large payer.  Average call length of about two and half minutes. First call resolution of ninety-six percent.  Be still my heart.  My guess is for these numbers to be true, the average wait time probably exceeds the average call time.  Let’s be truthful.  By the time the average person works up the hutzpah they need just to dial their payer it takes them more than two and a half minutes just to stop shouting.

The most customer-friendly firms in the world do not have a first call resolution of ninety-six percent.  You can fool all of the people some of the time, but it seems a little silly to deliberately fool yourself.

The industry’s latest public relations push seems to focus on wellness, helping us all to stay healthier. Healthier people will file fewer claims.  They will still pay the same premiums.  Payers keep the difference.  You do the math.

Under the Affordable Care Act patients can pick their payers.  They can also unpick them.  With transparent pricing patients will view health coverage as a commodity.  Payers will be forced to learn how to spell churn with a capital ‘C’.

However, payers do have an undiscovered secret weapon.  Customer service.  Answering the phone is not providing customer experience—well, at least it is not providing a good one—it is an activity.  The battlefield for retaining health plan customers is going to be all about providing a remarkable customer. Or not.