J.D. Power: Where payers are falling short in providing a digital consumer experience

Consumers expect a simple and easy digital experience, and health plans have plenty of room to improve on that front, according to a new report.

J.D. Power released its inaugural U.S. Health Insurance Experience Study on Tuesday, where it found that 42% of adults with insurance ran into issues using their plan's website and/or mobile app in the past year.

The study is based on responses from more than 5,500 people enrolled in the 14 largest Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and 15 largest commercial plans. It was conducted alongside Corporate Insight.

The analysis digs into the functionality of these websites and apps as well as how consumers interact with these platforms based on five factors: visual appeal, navigation, speed, information/content and telehealth. About a third (32%) of payers' websites and apps "don’t meet the foundational level of functionality and intuitive organization of information."

Only 21% of the digital platforms included in the survey met all of the included criteria to serve as a high-functioning digital tool, such as clear explanations for coverage, offering details on deductibles and out-of-pocket costs or providing telehealth for urgent needs.

To address this usability gap, health plans should turn to what's working in other sectors and adapt that for their own platforms, according to the report.

"Compared to other industries, healthcare is way behind on leveraging digital to compliment creating a great customer experience," Christopher Lis, managing director of global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power., told Fierce Healthcare in an email. "At the same time, more and more consumers are looking to digital tools for support. Basic usability measures like navigation and speed perform significantly lower among healthcare digital properties when we compare them to similar industries."

"At the end of the day, consumers are looking for easy to find, easy to use, and empowering digital tools to help them meet their healthcare needs aligned to their insurance coverage and family’s budget," he said.

The survey found that health insurance is behind property and casualty coverage when it comes to customers' satisfaction with their platforms. Commercial plans earned an average score of 646 on a 1,000 point scale for satisfaction, and MA plans earned a 629.

By comparison, P&C insurance scored an average of 700 among consumers. Retirement plans earned an average score of 685, according to the report.

Investing in improvements to the digital experience can pay off in a big way, according to the report. For commercial plans that earned a score of at least 801, more than half (53%) of members said they view their employer positively.

In MA plans with a similar score, 89% of enrollees said they will "definitely" renew their current coverage.

"There is zero probability that the strategic importance of digital will decrease over time, and the impact of digital on the customer experience will only increase over time," Lis said. "It is not to say that we won’t have plenty of bumps in the road, yet the transformational potential is highly significant, on the back-end with respect to efficiencies, as well as the front end in relation to creating more personalized customer experiences."