Want to improve member retention? Greet them through the 'digital front door,' Optum survey says

If health plans and providers want to improve the patient experience, especially for younger people, they need to greet them through the "digital front door," a new survey shows.

Optum surveyed 1,000 consumers and found that 74% currently schedule their appointments by phone or in person, while 36% said they would prefer to schedule online with either their payer or provider. Among patients aged 25 to 34, 45% said they prefer online scheduling, but just 28% do so currently.

In addition to appointment scheduling, payers and providers can make other improvements to the digital experience that could boost member retention, the survey found. For one, 57% of those surveyed said they were not satisfied with their ability to schedule telehealth visits.

About the same number (58%) said they were satisfied with their access to certain data on physicians, such as gender, race or licenses.

“The pandemic has accelerated consumer interest in online scheduling, virtual visits and follow-up,” said Puneet Maheshwari, co-founder and CEO of DocASAP at Optum, in the release. “We see this trend increasing and creating more opportunities for providers and payers to make patient care access simple and convenient, which is not always the case today."

The survey highlights the need for both payers and providers to find ways to address the friction in the care experience for patients and make it easier for them to access care in a convenient way. These digital options for care navigation are likely to be a critical tool in the arsenal for both payers and providers in thinking about ways to improve member retention.

For example, more than half (52%) of the surveyed consumers missed a scheduled appointment in the past year, which suggests there's plenty of room for payers and providers to improve. One-third of those who missed a visit said they simply forgot, while two years ago, the leading reason was COVID-19, according to the survey.