Health insurers and health system organizations face many challenges when it comes to offering the best healthcare UX (user experience) on websites and mobile apps. Our healthcare survey identified several digital areas where firms are currently competing—including design/navigation and personalization. The task of improving digital healthcare UX is made more complex by the sudden shift to telehealth, spurred by the pandemic. Firms may struggle to decide which offerings and capabilities to prioritize in a rapidly changing environment. But organizations that track the industry closely can identify best practices wherever they arise and offer the best customer experience in healthcare.

While our surveys repeatedly find that users are satisfied with some aspects of their health insurance plan and the digital patience experience—and that satisfaction has increased—digital-first users increasingly expect their insurer’s offerings to be as intuitive as those from Apple or Google. Expectations come from all digital experiences, not just those owned by rival organizations. The pressure is on healthcare firms to keep up. Firms that employ modern best practices, learning from those offering the best healthcare UX examples, will stand out from their competitors. Below, CI’s healthcare research team identifies best practices and must haves that firms can use today to create the best healthcare UX and digital patient experience.

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Health insurance digital experiences continue to evolve

As part of our ongoing research into the healthcare space, CI tracks the evolution of digital experiences from insurers, health systems and pharmacies. Monitoring the pace of change—how often firms update their sites and what areas they update most often—reveals larger industry trends.

In our latest trends analysis, we found that firms are focused on patient empowerment. Alerts, education and information saw the most site changes across the industry. As the healthcare system transforms to a patient-centered model, rather than the previous provider-centered one, organizations are doing more to enable patients to take charge of their health. Education plays a key roll in empowering patients. Healthcare organizations dedicated more resources to these site areas, making them a key part of any best-in-class digital experience going forward.

Similarly, digital tools and resources saw the second-most changes over the last 12 months. These tools fell into three buckets:

  • Care and cost tools
  • Quote tools
  • Chatbots

Organizations gave patients more tools for finding care and estimating the cost of that care, to help them make the best choice for their particular situation. Chatbots also help users navigate sites and avoid lengthy calls to customer service departments, saving both patients and organizations time and frustration. Both are reflective of the larger industry shift to patient-centered models.

For more on the pace of change in healthcare, watch CI’s presentation at the Accelerate Health conference:

Telehealth Integration Can Lead to Greater Satisfaction with the Digital Healthcare Customer Experience

The reliance on telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented; from March to April 2020, telehealth use grew from less than 1 percent of visits to 80 percent of visits. Although patients appreciate the improved healthcare UX of telehealth, barriers still exist, including limitations in insurance coverage, local regulations, and technological challenges. Our research indicates that, despite these barriers, telehealth will continue to expand. Our recent survey found that 93% of respondents were aware of telehealth services and 60% had used a virtual visit in the last year—and 41% of respondents reported having a telemedicine appointment within the past six months. Younger generations are particularly likely to find telehealth options satisfying, suggesting they will remain important even as we move past the pandemic. Firms looking to offer the best healthcare UX will have to find ways to better integrate telehealth into overall healthcare UX going forward.

This chart shows how younger generations are more likely to be satisfied with telehealth
Gen X Shows Highest Telehealth Satisfaction

However, younger generations are not the only population firms need to consider when imagining the future of telehealth. Recent survey data illustrates that Medicare members are not far behind younger generations with use of telehealth benefits. Although younger generations still surpass Medicare members in terms of visits, 38% of Medicare-aged survey respondents used telehealth in the past 12 months.

Insurers would do well to increase users’ awareness of their telehealth offerings across their website and mobile apps. Survey data on the use of telehealth tools indicates that even Medicare members are open to using technology for healthcare. Although it lagged behind lab, preventive and outpatient services, Medicare members cited telehealth as the fourth most commonly used service in the last year. This creates a promising opportunity for growth if prioritized appropriately by insurers. Healthcare website design and mobile app design should highlight telehealth options to cater to users’ evolving preferences.

This chart shows that 38% of medicare members used telehealth benefits in the last year
Telehealth Is the Fourth Most Commonly Used Benefit by Medicare Members in the Past Year

Several of the firms that make up CI’s Medicare Monitor coverage group, such as EmblemHealth and UnitedHealthcare, now offer telehealth services to members through in-house or third-party platforms. Adept healthcare organizations can monitor how their competitors handle the challenges of implementing telehealth into their existing platforms and adopt the innovations that patients prefer. The best healthcare UX uses the current best practices, no matter where they arise.

Other remote collaboration technologies have similarly grown more important during the pandemic. As individuals seek out healthcare in lower-volume, less traditional settings, specialized outpatient centers such as ambulatory surgery centers and office-based labs become more important. These new facilities face their own hurdles. Less traditional healthcare settings often house newer health care providers who would have previously benefited from the mentorship of seasoned professionals. But as more experienced providers often work in traditional settings, developing digital ways to support younger professionals will be a key during this transition to increased outpatient care. As CI has previously noted, innovative product rollouts, like Avail Medsystems’ remote UX collaboration technology, will play an increasing role in bridging this gap. Just as telehealth and virtual visits are on the rise, so are remote collaboration technologies that can connect providers for communication and education. Organizations must be mindful to provide intuitive healthcare UX across a variety of platforms for the best customer experience.

Health Insurers Must Meet Increasing Demand for Digital Prescription Management

Prescription management is now a must-have for any organization trying to provide the best healthcare UX. Consumers are using online pharmacy platforms to order and manage their medications. As such, patients now expect digital prescription tools included in healthcare website and mobile app design. Our survey found that about three-quarters of total respondents highly value digital prescription and pharmacy services on insurers websites. Pharmacy coverage and benefit details are the most important feature, followed by prescription activity and drug cost estimator tools. The largest change in member site activities since 2019 is viewing prescription history and starting or refilling a prescription.

Web and Mobile Users Find Most Pharmacy Features Important

Medicare members also value pharmacy features. Our survey found that 74% of Medicare respondents gave prescriptions and pharmacy website features a top-two box importance rating. Additionally, mobile prescription features, such as pharmacy locators and prescription management capabilities, scored significantly higher compared to website features across Medicare respondents. To create the best healthcare UX, insurers should integrate prescription benefit manager features into both their website design and mobile app design. Most health insurers lag in their mobile app offerings and can look to integrating pharmacy features to boost their apps. Some firms also provide mobile pharmacy services in a separate app, like Humana, or on the mobile site rather than integrating them into the member mobile app.

Additionally, our recent survey of pharmacy customers found that mobile is a big area of opportunity for prescription management. Across all age groups, respondents mainly engage with their pharmacy accounts via mobile apps (73%). In fact, Gen Xers use their pharmacy’s mobile apps the most of any generation—they are more than five times as likely to log in via mobile app than desktop site. Our survey also found that mobile app users tend to log in more frequently than desktop users, suggesting that pharmacies should focus more on improving the mobile experience.
A chart showing the most common devices used to log into an online pharmacy

Increased Mobile App Usage Points to the Need for Better Health Plan Apps

Mobile is also popular in other areas of healthcare. While our survey results shows that desktop websites remain the primary channel for users to interact with their health plans, the frequency of mobile app logins increased between 2019 and 2021. In 2021, 61% of mobile users logged in to their insurer’s app multiple times a month over a six-month period, compared to 54% in 2019. We expect this percentage to continue to rise. Healthcare mobile app design will only grow in importance as organizations compete to provide the best healthcare UX across platforms.

Most Mobile Users Log into Health Insurer Mobile App Multiple Times a Month

Additionally, as firms continue to improve their desktop sites, users may now be expecting an equally functional experience on a health insurer’s mobile app. Surveys confirm that design, usability and navigation are significantly more important to today’s mobile users. In fact, design, usability and navigation ranks as the third most-valued feature among our survey respondents. Across platforms, users value features that help them find and use capabilities. Healthcare firms need to prioritize these areas in their website and mobile app design to offer the best healthcare UX.

Firms should also concentrate on expanding healthcare features that users prefer on mobile devices. Our survey found that some activities—like contacting a health professional via chat, researching health topics or symptoms, and contacting member services or looking for help—are more popular on mobile apps than on desktop sites. Insurers should therefore enhance these resources on their mobile apps to meet members where they are.

This graph shows that some healthcare capabilities are used more often on mobile apps.
Some Activities Are More Popular on Mobile Apps

Firms can also improve their healthcare mobile app design by offering Personal Health Records (PHRs), which 79% of survey respondents indicated as top-two importance. Looking up PHRs is also one of the most performed activity on mobile apps among our respondents. Notably, younger demographics find such mobile records to be more important than Boomers and Silent Generation respondents. Users value and use PHRs on mobile apps, making them an obvious must-have for insurers trying to offer the best healthcare UX.

The Growing Intersection between Healthcare UX and Technology Drives the Future of Digital Healthcare Innovation

The pandemic highlighted the importance of technology to keep us connected. It also caused many people to spend more time at home, for better or worse. A recent study found a correlation between the pandemic and six unhealthy eating behaviors, from mindless snacking to life-threatening eating disorders. The secondary health effects of the pandemic further emphasized the need for accessible health technology. Healthcare providers can use new technologies to build relationships that last beyond the pandemic.

Healthcare providers can use new technologies to build relationships that last beyond the pandemic.

Organizations are now focusing on innovations and new technologies to deliver consumer-centric care and health solutions that produce convenient, engaging digital healthcare customer experiences. Big Tech companies like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft moved into the healthcare space by developing digital tools and offering care services. Amazon’s latest healthcare bet is the nationwide expansion of its primary care platform Amazon Clinic. Members can interact with clinicians via messaging, videos or virtual consultations to receive treatments for common medical conditions and receive their prescriptions through Amazon Pharmacy. These companies accelerate the consumer-centric approach to traditional healthcare processes and systems by democratizing health data and changing healthcare delivery.

Big Tech firms also have an advantage when it comes to healthcare UX. Their other platforms often dominate segments of the marketplace—such as Gmail, the iPhone or—and thus set user expectations across digital platforms. (The most effective inbox in a healthcare app, for example, will probably resemble the inbox users are most familiar with: a Gmail inbox.) These firms can easily adopt their existing UX expertise to healthcare, putting additional pressure on traditional healthcare providers to improve their offerings.

Another emerging technology is wearables, which provide increasingly accurate measurements at increasingly lower prices. The use of wearable devices can reduce sedentary behavior and improve overall wellness by keeping patients engaged with their health by providing access to data, gamifying health and—in some cases—providing financial incentives. Often, measuring vitals such as heart rate and rhythm, blood oxygen levels and even steps can be difficult without a wearable. Access to that data allows patients to better understand their health and actions.

While health insurers still promote digital health wellness through health apps and fitness tracking, the next wave of innovation focuses on empowering members to use their health data and be more involved in healthcare decision-making. As Priya Abani, CEO of AliveCor, mentioned at the 2021 HLTH Conference, it is critical for companies to create devices for patients to not only view data, but also put that data to use and take care of their health. As companies continue to develop and improve digital health tools, focusing on the big picture—the health of patients and usability of tools—is more essential than ever. Firms that invest in improving their UX, keeping abreast of the latest innovations and trends, will reap benefits as technology becomes more intertwined with healthcare.

The healthcare industry faces constant change. Patient expectations are always increasing, with users now expecting their healthcare mobile app’s design to be as intuitive as Uber or Instagram. The intrusion of Big Tech only increases the stakes for traditional healthcare firms, as tech giants look to disrupt the field by leaning on their digital expertise to offer the best healthcare customer experience. This in turn again increases user expectations throughout the industry. Healthcare organizations do well to keep abreast of their competitors so that they can meet these rising expectations.

Our cross-industry experience has demonstrated time and time again that the best UX doesn’t necessarily come from shiny new innovators or deep-pocketed firms. Rather, the best user experience comes from firms that quickly adopt innovations proven to work. Health insurers will provide the best experience when they track trends and adopt best practices from both traditional competitors and disruptors. Firms ready to adapt and learn will be best positioned to succeed in this changing space.

The best user experience comes from firms that quickly adopt innovations proven to work.

Corporate Insight continues to closely monitor the digital experience across the financial services industry, including top healthcare organizations. Learn more about how CI’s Health Plan, Health System, Medicare and Pharmacy Monitor subscription research services can help your organization get ahead of the competition. Contact us via the form here to learn more about how our healthcare research services can improve your UX.