Ideally, a health plan’s Web site should provide clients with convenient access to that kind of information. The Web has become a vehicle for people who are looking to purchase a product or service, says Michael Taylor, executive director of marketing and communications for UPMC Health Plan.
Smart Business spoke with Taylor on what features make a Web site successful and how a health plan’s Web site can best serve the needs of its customers.
What features should employers look for in a health plan’s Web site?
First, a health plan’s Web site needs to be easy to use and navigate. This is true regardless of who uses it: a company executive, a benefits administrator, or a health plan member.
Health plan Web sites deliver different things to different audiences. Members may go to a health plan’s Web site for tips on how to get healthy and stay healthy. Or they may want an easy way to search for a prescription drug to see whether it is included on their health plan’s formulary. Others may look for a new primary care physician or specialist in their health plan’s network. They should be able do all of this quickly and easily on a Web site.
Members also like the convenience of being able to perform specific administrative tasks. These can include researching coverage options, reviewing an explanation of benefits (EOB), refilling a prescription, or replacing a lost ID card.
Benefits administrators want a Web site that enables them to quickly and easily enroll members, to issue terminations, or to access specific coverage and benefits information.
Some employers want extra online features such as access to aggregate health information about their work force that can be derived from online health assessment scores. Such information to offer relevant health improvement programs at the worksite. Web sites also should have the potential to grow and adapt to meet an employer’s changing needs.
What Web site features encourage the most usage?
Web sites that offer users interactive tools that track their progress with medications or measure their success in weight management programs often prove popular. These get the user to return to the Web site frequently. Employers like features of this type because they turn the Web site into a vehicle that encourages healthier lifestyles for employees.
How can a company get maximum value from a health plan’s Web site?
First, make sure your employees actually use it. That may require ‘marketing’ the Web site to your employees. Employer groups can ask for assistance from the health plan to set up an e-mail campaign and other types of communication.
The health plan can also do its part by including Web site information in the materials that it sends to all members. A company’s account management, enrollment and customer-service staffs should be versed in how to promote and explain the features of the plan’s Web site. During enrollment periods, they should be able to tell employees exactly what the Web site offers and explain to them how to use it.
Doctors within the health plan’s network can also be trained on the Web site so they can direct their patients to the site. This can be one of the most effective ways to increase usage.
How can a health plan’s Web site benefit an employer?
A health plan Web site should provide both employer and employees with access to trusted information in combination with easy-to-use administrative and health promotion tools that help demystify the complex world of health care. Using a health plan’s Web site should be convenient; that’s why finding all the information you want in one place is so important. Users do not need the hassle that comes from having to visit many different Web sites to find out information or to perform an administrative task. Using a health plan’s Web site should be a seamless experience for members.
How can an employer group be sure a health plan’s Web site protects a member’s information?
Many regulations that govern health plans ensure they protect a member’s personal health information. Security parameters are regulated by the federal government, and health plans should continually research and implement best-in-class security and privacy practices. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides guidelines on privacy and security standards for a health plan’s interaction with members.
MICHAEL TAYLOR is executive director of marketing and communications at UPMC Health Plan in Pittsburgh. Reach him at (412) 454-7534 or firstname.lastname@example.org.