Jay Sheehy Explains How Health Plans Can Better Engage Consumers

It is important that health insurers fully understand the populations and demographics they are working with in order to effectively engage their consumers, said Jay Sheehy, senior vice president of product innovation at EmblemHealth. 

Transcript (slightly modified)
How can health insurers typically fall short of adequately engaging their customers?
So there is a lot of opportunity for insurance companies, healthcare carriers, to engage the consumer. I think as opposed to many other businesses, like retail and marketing businesses, healthcare companies have a lot of ground to make up and really understanding the consumer. It should really be all about the consumer and that needs to be far more fact-based. It needs to leverage technology and those are things that we’re really learning on the fly as an industry.
Some companies are doing a little bit better than others but I think the whole industry has a significant opportunity to really resonate with the consumer and when you say consumer, that’s such a general term. You really have to know each of your different businesses, the marketplace, the state, the makeup. For example, in New York when we look at our Medicaid population, it’s really a high prevalence of Hispanic and Chinese American, but even if you look at the Hispanic population, the largest growing component of that is the Dominican versus the Porte Rican. How you communicate and engage with those ethnicities is very, very different and what’s important to them is different, although there is some common ground.
So really learning more, making it more fact-based, leveraging the technology and really taking it to whole new levels the way an Amazon, or Google or other companies really have significant experience in this area is where we need to go.
How does consumer engagement vary depending on the audience, and what does the insurer need to do to be able to pivot to meet those different needs?
Well, I think you have many different audiences, whether it’s based upon their locations, it’s based upon their socio-economic status, it’s based upon their family status. You really have to try and understand your individual population and what’s important to them. And doing that research, and sort of customizing your message to things that really are important that resonate with those consumers really changes and gives you that advantage.
I think the other real challenge we face in the healthcare industry is, we’re trying to take something that is so complex and simplify it. How do you really take something that people are very confused about? We in the industry have historically tried to through everything at them, all the language, try to over explain these benefits, when they’re really looking for our help to simplify it and then when they want to know more, how do they very easily access that data?
The way I think of it is, give people the headlines and let them click on it and if they want to know more about their bronze plan, or about their essential plan here in New York, or about their large group benefit plan. But we often have historically tried to just to throw everything out there in an already very complicated environment, and often, people are trying to learn this when it is very stressful to them, whether they have an illness themselves or are dealing with a loved one who’s trying to deal with optimizing their health. 
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