UnitedHealth personalizes insurance with retail stores

As insurers continue embracing the idea of retail stores, UnitedHealth Group is hoping to utilize the new trend to personalize insurance, enhance customer service and improve member relations.

UnitedHealth has opened eight retail store locations throughout the country, including Manhattan, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles area. It also has 16 smaller centers in malls in such cities as Las Vegas, Houston and Palm Beach, Fla., reported Bloomberg.

"Customers want to bring the conversation to where they are," said Christopher Law, a national vice-president at UnitedHealth who oversees the insurer's retail site. "Why can't it be more like a bank, where you can go in and have tellers helping you out?"

UnitedHealth's 16,000 square-foot Queens retail store serves about 3,200 monthly visitors, many of whom are already UnitedHealth members seeking assistance concerning their plans. The store's 30 employees, including five social workers, help customers purchase a new health plan, as well as offer advice on providers, healthy recipes and drug interactions.

There's also an iPad station providing self-guided tours of benefit plans, a private office to discuss medical claims, a wellness room where an audiologist can fit hearing aids and a biometric station where members can check their vital signs with machines like automated blood pressure cuffs.

"We understand that each individual customer has an individual set of needs and we need to simplify and personalize the system," Tom Paul, chief consumer officer for UnitedHealth, told Bloomberg. "What we're trying to do is recognize that the responsibility for consumers is only continuing to grow."

But while the retail stores are the "centerpiece" of this strategy, UnitedHealth also has launched related programs aimed at personalizing members' health and wellness. For example, UnitedHealth has released apps like its OptumizeMe and Health4Me to engage consumers in healthy behaviors in ways that are convenient, fun, educational and effective, Nick Martin, vice president of innovation, research and development at UnitedHealth Group wrote in a previous guest commentary for FierceHealthPayer.

"You have to wrap it around all of these other programs for the community," Law said. "We're building a long-term relationship."

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg article