Members of the Obama Administration were likely holding their breath recently as they braced for the 2015 open enrollment period to begin on November 15th. Last year’s launch of Healthcare.gov began with the site collapsing on the first day and only six people successfully purchasing an insurance plan.
This year’s open enrollment period got off to a better start with 100,000 people successfully submitting applications and 500,000 logging into the site on the first day, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. The site was not without error though. Several customers had issues logging in, obtaining their login credentials, and some shoppers were stopped by error messages pertaining to the amount of traffic that the site was experiencing. Overall, the website has undergone drastic improvements and the key goal of the site was largely obtained – this being that people were able to successfully purchase healthcare plans. However, there is measure where Healthcare.gov still falls short – creating a modern customer experience.
Last year West Monroe performed a Customer Effort Score assessment of the second iteration of Healthcare.gov released in December, 2013. A measurement of customer experience, the customer effort score was introduced by the Harvard Business Review and measures customers’ ability to solve their issues quickly and easily to help businesses better optimize the customer experience and increase customer loyalty. West Monroe gave the site a score of 2.6 out of 5, 5 equating to an extremely high effort experience.
The site this year showed improvements, but still posed some of the same problems that West Monroe identified last year. The site still does not delineate between buying and shopping or living up to the e-commerce potential that other industries have attained. With the site’s focus on purchasing healthcare it does not pay as much attention to the customer experience to do so, or maintaining the customer relationship thereafter.
There are a few key areas where the site has opportunity to improve. The first is to provide customers with a more personalized experience. The site made strides this year by condensing the lengthy application process from 76 to 16 screens, by providing more informative indicators of how far along in the application process customers were, and by making the site accessible by mobile and tablet devices. Still, the site presents customers with an overwhelming amount of information – not all which pertains to them. Using current filters to search for a plan, customers are still presented with a significant number of plans to choose from, that could leave someone well-versed in the plans perplexed as to which one to choose. A next step would be to use existing customer information and browsing data to make more personalized product recommendations.
Potentially the most opportunity for improvement lies in the customer experience after purchase. Healthcare is a unique marketplace in that it provides a very low level of cost and of quality transparency for products. Imagine purchasing a product without knowing its quality, or investing in a product where you didn’t even know the possible benefits – it would never happen! In fact, there are few places that come to mind where shoppers put money forward before they know exactly what they are getting their hands into. However, the healthcare insurance marketplace operates in this way, as attaining information about the costs of services received from medical providers, as well there associated quality, is very difficult. A step towards improvement would be for Healthcare.gov to provide this data to compare between insurance providers and hospitals so that customers could more readily assess where to make the best purchase for them, and so that providers could obtain recognition based on the quality of their care.
US consumers are still warming up to the idea of buying healthcare. The improvements made to Healthcare.gov 2.0 will hopefully expedite that process, but areas of improvement remain for Healthcare.gov 3.0.