Improve customer experience by harnessing data like Wal-Mart

Looking to successful consumer-oriented companies like Wal-Mart and Proctor & Gamble can help insurers survive the transition to and thrive within the evolving health insurance market.

That's why Cigna has "expanded extensively" its direct-to-consumer data to include, for example, consumer preferences, purchasing habits, demographic information and retail purchasing choices, Joan Kennedy, Cigna's vice president of consumer health engagement, told FierceHealthPayer.

Speaking ahead of her presentation on the same topic at the AHIP Institute in Las Vegas, Kennedy explained that non-healthcare companies like Wal-Mart and Proctor & Gamble have a very different--and successful--way of looking at consumers, their preferences and desires as well as how they create brand loyalty.

Cigna is bringing that same type of data analysis into the health environment to help it better understand members. "There's data for data's sake and then there's data that actually has meaningful impact in what people will actually do," Kennedy said.

In other words, she explained, insurers have to understand what truly drives a person's behavior before they can customize outreach to help improve their health outcomes. People who like gaming and have a certain profile, for example, are a very high risk for diabetes and heart disease. "So there's a target market where we could come at them probably through some of the activities that they like to do and try to get them more active and engaged in their health," Kennedy said. By understanding their specific consumer profile, Cigna could use gaming apps to drive the intervention and offer incentives and help educate the members in a unique and tailored way.

Cigna also hopes to use its new consumer profiling methods to gain a competitive advantage starting this fall when health insurance exchanges open for enrollment. "It's a brave new world for consumers, and it's a brave new world for health plans and the industry," she said. "The speed of change over the next two to three years is going to be extensive."

That's why Cigna "has committed over the last five years to understand what direct-to-consumer education, support and individual preference setting means," Kennedy said. This work will let Cigna create member communications that are very simple. "I think if you can simply educate a consumer and make the product easy to understand, they will make good decisions," Kennedy said. "That will create the differentiation."

Meanwhile, Cigna is combining its consumer profiling model with its traditional medical profiling models because, Kennedy said, "the goal is still that we want to improve health outcomes and cost of care. So the blending of them is going to be quite compelling."

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