Other industries influence what consumers want from healthcare

There's been a lot of talk since the Affordable Care Act was passed that the health insurance industry must focus on and engage more with its consumers the way other industries do, particularly in retail and travel.

Consumers "are really having their expectations shaped by [influences] outside of healthcare," Ann Mond Johnson, chairman of the board of managers at private exchange operator ConnectedHealth, said during a conference in New York, according to Employee Benefits News.

She adds that private health insurance exchanges are in a good position to drive the industry's transition to being more consumer-centric.

"Whether you call it an 'Amazon-like shopping experience' or a 'Travelocity-like experience,' the fact is people are walking into an exchange environment--which is really leveraging the technology to make the selection experience more robust for the consumer--with expectations that are shaped in other areas of their life," Johnson said. "They're not going to check their consumer hat when they walk into the health experience."

That translates to consumers who want more information about what they're actually paying for in their health plans. Especially as insurers continue shifting more financial responsibility to consumers through high-deductible plans and other cost-sharing measures, Johnson thinks consumers will want even more "information and transparency into cost and quality and be able to create their own value equations."

Exchanges, whether public or private, can be a good venue to offer the retail experience in the healthcare industry. "From our vantage point, we really see exchanges as the latest evolution of healthcare consumerism and providing consumers with a somewhat familiar retail experience--although that still needs to be developed--and with more choice and transparency so they can make more informed decisions," Johnson added.

To learn more:
- read the Employee Benefits News article