Health exchanges can take cue from commercial retail sites

As federal and state officials work to fix the user experience on health insurance exchanges, some back-end problems remain, including ensuring consumers actually purchase health plans, reported InformationWeek.

Even for optimized commercial websites, between 60 percent and 80 percent of visitors don't complete their transactions at checkout, according to Qubit, a company specializing in website optimization for retailers.

What does that mean for exchanges, which still haven't found solid footing? Qubit determined exchanges can learn some valuable lessons from private companies' online retail experiences, according to InformationWeek.

Among the benchmarks a retail website should meet, online health insurance sites should have "hints and tips" or "help" section, a search function, navigation with drop-down or fly-out menus, a clearly accessible shopping cart and the ability to inform users where on the site they are at all times.

"The experience [on HealthCare.gov] doesn't leave a nice taste in people's mouths ... Some very simple best practices (and knowing how consumers) use the sites, will optimize the experience," Ian McCaig, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Qubit, told InformationWeek.

Another problem with HealthCare.gov is the website wasn't designed with multiple types of users and their differing goals in mind, says Theresa Baiocco, chief marketing officer of ConversionMax, which evaluated the federal exchange in early November. The federal exchange website was "not intuitive at all; visitors [had] to stop and think way too much," she told InformationWeek.

Other design flaws of the federal exchange website include confusing prompts, long loading time for forms take too long to load and unclear messaging on tech issues, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

Some of these issues led U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to call for the inspector general to examine HealthCare.gov. She said officials have performed hundreds of software fixes and hardware upgrades to help improve the user experience on the federal exchange and wants the inspector general to review the site's development and management, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the InformationWeek article

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