Siegel+Gale: Healthcare consumers willing to pay more for simpler service

New data from the firm showed that some customers value simplicity to the point where they're willing to reach a little deeper into their pockets.

NEW YORK: Consumers are willing to pay more for seamless interactions with their health insurance provider, and communications plays a major role in that relationship, according to newly released data from Siegel+Gale.

The firm surveyed 200 Hawaii residents about their interactions with the Hawaii Medical Service Association and combined the information with results from its Global Brand Simplicity Index.

The health-insurance industry finished last out of 25 sectors when it comes to simplicity, but the Association’s numbers reflect a change for the better, according to the firm.

"HMSA has done a really good job by reaching out to people proactively," said David Pulaski, research director at Siegel+Gale. "Communications is the critical aspect to create that simplicity."

By comparison, the group’s brand-simplicity score beat those of UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Humana, and Cigna, according to Siegel+Gale’s research, which it said has implications for the relationship between company and consumer.

The firm noted that "people who consider HMSA as simpler than industry peers tend to have better perception [of] the brand." Its reputation was based on factors like its history of performance and the health and well-being of Hawaiians.

Forty-five percent of customers were likely to be "loyal" to a healthcare provider when the experience was "simpler," according to the agency. It also found that some consumers don’t mind if a better experience costs them a little more money, with nearly 15% willing to pay more for simpler experiences that they receive with HMSA. Thirty-seven percent of respondents identified as "loyal customers," meaning they would recommend and renew with the insurer.

Pulaski pointed out some of the factors that have helped the organization stand out since it started exploring how to connect with customers so they can respond to market needs, such as ensuring each Hawaiian island has its own retail outlet. It also worked to ensure services connect customers with "a live person as quickly as possible."

Pulaski added that while HMSA only has to be cognizant of one state’s regulations, personal connection is an important part of any approach.

"I know that it costs money, but what we’ve shown here is that people are willing to pay more for that simplicity," he said, noting that the changing healthcare landscape may have forced some companies to "put customer outreach on a back burner."

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