J.D. Power: Telehealth use boosts members' satisfaction with health plans

Increased telehealth use under the pandemic is encouraging members to engage more with their health plans, according to a new report from J.D. Power.

J.D. Power's annual Commercial Member Health Plan Study found 36% of commercial plan members said they had used telehealth services, up from 9% in 2020's study. That corresponded with a gain in member satisfaction over the last year, according to the report.

In addition, 32% of plan members said they connected with their insurance plan through the web, mobile apps or text messaging in the past year.

James Beem, managing director of global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power, told Fierce Healthcare that while telehealth use is correlated to higher member satisfaction, payers will need to continue to think about ways to evolve their approach to keep members happy.

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He said that while telehealth use overall increased last year, the percent of users who said they would reuse these services decreased from 2019.

"These results show that members are engaging more digitally with their health plan and healthcare provider, but this also puts pressure on health plans to respond with better tools that provide convenience, transparency and information," Beem said. "Health plans will want to consider how to improve telehealth to retain users."

The study found a generational gap in members who were most connected to their health plans. Younger people were more likely to be engaged with their plans, with 62% of Gen Zers and 52% of millennials accessing their plan's customer service channel at least once during the past year.

For baby boomers, that number decreases to 49%, the study found. J.D. Power found 44% of boomers said they had no interactions with their plan at all in the past year.

Overall, 37% of people surveyed had no contact with their health plan in the last year, according to the report.

"Consumers are looking for ways to better understand the health insurance product," Beem said. "Plans should help improve health plan literacy through the use of digital channels."