Living in a Starbucks World: The Power of Personalization

By Kathleen Ellmore

I’m feeling energized after a fantastic trip to Chicago last week for AHIP’s Consumer Experience and Digital Forum.

I’ve attended for the past 3 years and attendees have never seemed more excited about using the latest tools and technologies to create better user experiences.

After participating in a number of presentations and hallway conversations, my main takeaway is that the consumer expectations have never been higher.

 What sufficed two years ago is considered table stakes in today’s Starbucks world. I’m sure you’ve heard these examples before - walk into any Starbucks, and have your coffee custom brewed to order. Drive through Burger King and “have it your way.” Sign into Netflix and have your favorites and recommendations based on your interests teed up for watching.

Now that healthcare has gone retail, consumers are expecting the same from their health plans. And fourteen years of working across 100 of the top health plans has shown us that plans can increase response and outcomes based on the level of personalization they apply to member outreach. So, how do we evolve to a level of customization that consumers have grown to expect from their favorite brands?

Here are my 3 suggestions for any health plan that wants deliver a member experience that looks more like what your consumers are getting at Starbucks:

1. Go beyond table stakes personalization.

Personalizing by name and health status is nice, but not enough. Technology now allows you to create dynamic interactions based on real time behavior. After last week I would suggest the real opportunity to transform consumer experience is dynamic interactions based on cumulative experience. 

Satisfaction as an equation is often touted as “Expectations Minus Experience; I would alter that to say “Satisfaction equals Expectations Minus Cumulative Experience”. Each interaction we have with consumers usually takes into account health history, but rarely considers engagement history.

Think about the consumer’s entire experience. Don’t send a “visit your doc” message to a group of members who said they were very dissatisfied with their physician during a recent survey, try a “find a new doc” message instead. Make sure one department isn’t sending out a breach notice the day before another is sending out a satisfaction survey.

2. Don't let compliance be a roadblock.

Compliance itself is not the problem; rather it is letting compliance become a road block and a reason for inertia. We, as an industry, are in the driver’s seat when it comes to exploring what works and what doesn’t to create more efficient and effective healthcare interactions. We are excited to be partnering with a number of innovative plans that are working hand-in-hand with their compliance departments to better identify areas for innovation.

Together we must forge new roads to experiment within the boundaries of what is compliant. The health plans who are testing these areas are receiving top marks for experience and achieving outstanding engagement results.

3. Own the end-to-end relationship.

Point technologies that play a very specific role can effectively serve a very limited use. But, to provide dynamic interactions with consumers based on cumulative experiences, healthcare needs an end-to-end platform that harnesses all of those consumer interactions and the multitude of consumer data that lives outside of healthcare.

The power of personalization holds tremendous opportunity for motivating behavior change at scale. I look forward to AHIP’s Consumer Experience and Digital Forum next year, when hopefully many more of us will be personalizing to create a Starbucks-like experience in healthcare.