Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Time for Health Insurers to Earn Patient's Trust

The current day healthcare system operates on very different tenets as compared to the past. Improvements in technology mean that doctors are able to provide patients with much better care. But something is amiss from this otherwise rosy picture - trust!  There was a time when patients would unquestionably trust their family doctors and always believed that the latter would do what’s best for them. But somewhere along the way, that trust has been eroded.

The fact is that the medical profession has dropped an axe on its own foot – there is no refuting the fact that the knowledge that doctors take kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies, labs, imaging centers and other doctors has caused patients to lost faith in doctors. This has had a domino effect on the other players in the health ecosystem too.

The Current Scenario

Pharma companies are looked upon as greedy corporates, who are out to maximize their profits at the expense of the patient’s wallet. Similarly, health insurance companies are perceived as being soulless corporates that prevent patients from getting access to the medical treatments they need, in an effort to keep their costs low and their profits high. They are considered to be bloated bureaucratic organizations, manned by heartless clerks, who do their best to refuse, reject and delay claims.

This creates a lot of resentment and angst in the patient, who feels his treatment is being wrongfully denied. In turn, this makes doctors and insurers raise swords against each other too. Doctors feel that insurers are backing them into a corner by capping their payments. What’s even worse is they feel that insurers are now beginning to play doctor and second guess them by performing utilization reviews, and judging their medical decisions.

Zero Connect

The problem is that health insurers have had myopic vision. To date, their only contact with customers has been with regards to financial transactions. The only time they feel the need to connect with patients is when they have to collect the annual premium , or when  the customer submits a claim that the company has to pay it. These companies are very proactive with collecting the premium , but are extremely lackadaisical when  it comes to  actually paying the claim.

When Negativity Reigns

Patients do not like paying premiums when they are healthy, and filling out medical forms when they are ill can be extremely stressful.  This creates a very negative atmosphere as far as customer interactions are concerned. The cumulative effect is that people look at insurers in a very negative light; a necessary evil that they have to put up with; just as they do with the taxman. This is quite a shame, because there is a lot that insurers can do to create positive interactions with their customers.

Proactive Approach Required

Insurance companies will have to be proactive in their interactions with their customers, and  the best way to do this is to provide their customers  with Information Therapy. Knowledge is power,  and a patient is hungry  for trustworthy  information that will help him understand  more about his illness so he can ascertain whether he is getting the best medical care. This  is precisely why patients scour the internet and pour over one web page after the next.

A Positive Buzz

Ideally, this information should be coming from doctors but they are just too preoccupied  to educate their patients. Health insurance companies can step in and fill this yawning void. They can position themselves as the preferred first point of contact when their customer has a medical problem. They can provide patients with Information Therapy - prescription strength information, that is provided to the right person , at the right time.  This will create a positive buzz and help insurers gain the trust of their customers.

Everyone Wins

Providing Information Therapy before the patient goes to the doctor , helps the patient have an intelligent conversation with his doctor, and saves the doctor time too ! It reduces avoidable care, unnecessary surgery and medical treatments. Doctors treat well-informed patients much more respectfully.  A good doctor and a well-informed patient can form a partnership which will ensure that patients get the best possible medical care.

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