Elevating a simpler digital experience to increase member engagement

Digital transformation and member-centricity go hand in hand. Across today’s health care industry, improving the consumer experience is now the core goal of digital investments for health plans and providers. With seamless and personalized digital experiences, the new normal across so many other industries, a majority of health care technology executives say better customer service and engagement is the top outcome they aim to achieve.¹

Today, most consumers expect simple and seamless access to their health care information across devices and platforms, similar to an online retail shopping experience. And they’re looking for cost-saving opportunities and greater price transparency while maintaining quality for health care services and prescription drugs.

“Digital health care services and products will continue to expand and evolve in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Samantha Baker, Vice President Consumer Digital Health & Engagement at UnitedHealthcare. “We want to empower consumers to make informed health care and benefit decisions and eliminate unknowns — the number one thing that drives consumer unease with health care.”

Building a simpler digital health care experience with the right infrastructure

A strong digital experience can start with consumers being able to easily find the health care information they need, where and when they want it.

Given this, UnitedHealthcare has created a digital “front door” experience that helps to optimize delivery of information across an employee’s computer, mobile and tablet. It’s meant to help deliver what employees and their families search for most online: a network provider, details about a claim and information about plan benefits.

3 key takeaways from member digital experience

  1. A digital “front door” helps to optimize delivery of health benefits information across an employee’s computer, mobile and tablet for the most searchable items including network provider, details about a claim and plan details.
  2. Between 40% and 60% of consumers say they are interested in broad virtual health solutions such as a lower-cost virtual-first health plan.
  3. More than 75% of consumers believe devices like wearables help them change their behavior.

“With more offerings in the mix, fully integrated and personalized experiences accessed through one point becomes paramount,” Baker says. “An overarching goal is to make everything as simple as possible, reducing the number of steps it takes to get from point A to point B.”

In 2021, the UnitedHealthcare® app and myuhc.com® member experiences were more closely synced through new app features and enhancements. Pharmacy order improvements surfacing cost-saving opportunities were also launched. Now when a member orders a prescription, lower-cost (generic) options are highlighted if available. Further improvements on the way include flagging any potential issues with manufacturers and supply chain that could delay fulfillment of orders.

“All of this work helps to build trust with members while elevating transparency and choice,” Baker says. “If members get faster, simpler access to the information they need to make decisions easier and faster, it’s better for everyone who touches the digital ecosystem.”

When employees can get the information that they need when and how they want it, they’re more likely to understand and use benefits more confidently and know the costs of future care. For employers, this may mean fewer requests for help and potential cost savings due to more informed health care decisions, among other benefits, she says.

“It puts a big spotlight on us to be able to integrate all digital experiences back into myuhc.com and the UnitedHealthcare app, to help our customers navigate,” Baker says.

Virtual care options continue to grow and expand access to care

More than 2 years after COVID-19 lockdowns spurred a massive uptick in virtual care visits, it’s clear that a new era of health care delivery has arrived. Perceptions and availability of virtual care have rapidly evolved. Eighty-four percent of physicians offer virtual visits and 57% said they would prefer to continue offering virtual care. Meanwhile, between 40% and 60% of consumers say they are interested in broad virtual health solutions such as a lower-cost virtual-first health plan.²

“There’s huge potential for virtual care to help address members’ health challenges across a range of areas — behavioral, chronic disease management and primary care,” says Craig Kurtzweil, Vice President for Advanced Analytics at UnitedHealthcare.

With mental health needs exacerbated by the pandemic, growing networks of virtual behavioral health providers can remove barriers to access and provide huge value. Virtual behavioral health options may help employees avoid the stigma of walking through the front door of a facility, for example, and rural residents might avoid long drives to provider offices.

“For busy parents and adolescents, not having to drive 30 or 60 minutes to reach a provider is a big deal,” Kurtzweil says. “Virtual reduces some of the burden and some of the stigma — it means access to a network that’s tough to reach and tough to schedule around. That’s one of the best enhancements we’re going to see in a post-COVID world.”

UnitedHealthcare has increased the capabilities of its virtual health services in various ways. Members can now make a behavioral health appointment through myuhc.com. Virtual visits for primary care are now available on many health plans, combining the convenience of virtual care with the advantages of seeing a primary care physician (PCP) who is familiar with their patient’s medical health history. 

“We’re going to see continued improvement in that space — not just access to virtual care, but making sure we try to help identify what’s the right model of care,” Baker says. “That’s going to help drive affordability.”

She sees a near future where members are empowered to choose their preferred care delivery mode — virtual or in-person — across a range of areas: urgent, primary, behavioral and specialist care.

This future is coming fast. UnitedHealthcare NavigateNOW,⁴ a virtual-first plan that launched last fall, already offers eligible members a single, digital entry point to medical, behavioral and pharmacy services that begin virtually and connect to in-person care when needed.

Engagement fueled by advocacy and a more personalized, rewarding member experience

With the above advancements in motion, what’s next? New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can now support a more engaging member digital experience. Wearable devices and rewards programs can also engage members and improve their habits. The result of all this: a more personalized experience for employees that may drive better health outcomes.

An example of how cutting-edge tech can support better member experiences can be seen in a virtual physical therapy program offered by UnitedHealthcare. Launched in partnership with Kaia Health,⁵ the app-based program gives patients AI-based feedback on their exercises to support correct movements.

“Part of advocating for members involves putting them in the driver’s seat when making heath care decisions,” Baker says. “New digital tools and services available anywhere help them achieve this.”

Wearable devices will clearly play a big role in member engagement and motivating members to sustain healthier behaviors. More than 75% of consumers believe devices help them change their behavior.⁶

Last year, UnitedHealthcare expanded its UnitedHealthcare Motion® program, which provides eligible participants with access to activity trackers at no cost. The incentive program, which had focused on rewarding members for reaching daily walking goals, now encompasses cycling, elliptical, running and swimming activities.

“Old boundaries between specific incentive programs and a member’s overall digital experience are fading,” says Qian Qian Tang, Vice President of Consumer Digital Engagement at UnitedHealthcare.

Delivering a high-quality experience will increasingly be about guiding members throughout their entire health journey, she notes.

“There’s a lot that we can do in our role to help guide our members through their health care experience and help them navigate,” Tang says. “Whether it’s using rewards or wearable data, we’re continuing to invest in new ways of engaging our members and becoming a source in managing their health and wellness.”

In addition, offering eligible members a year to Apple Fitness+ at no additional cost helps to bring them through the UnitedHealthcare digital front door where they may learn more about their health benefits and suggestions to fill gaps in care.

“Evolving programs like Motion and offering Apple Fitness+ are all about meeting members where they are,” Tang says.

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Video: Virtual care connects simplicity with convenience for members

Phil Kaufman, Chief Growth Officer and CEO for UnitedHealthcare Individual & Family plan, explains how virtual care has evolved to better meet the needs of members.

Advocating for members throughout their health care journey

Advocacy solutions at UnitedHealthcare are designed to anticipate potential health needs while helping members make more informed health care decisions.

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