Report: Telehealth Utilization Leads to Higher Health Plan Member Satisfaction

June 1, 2021
However, more than a third of surveyed health plan members still reported no engagement with their health plan, including nearly half of pre-Boomers/Boomers

Thirty-six percent of privately-owned health plan members in the U.S. accessed telehealth services, up from just 9 percent a year ago, contributing to overall higher member satisfaction, according to a new report from consumer intelligence company J.D. Power.

Significantly increased telehealth utilization and greater adoption of digital communication channels has helped U.S. health plans meet member needs during the pandemic, the report’s authors noted. “The past year has proven without a doubt that effective use of digital channels has the power to increase customer engagement, build trust and promote brand advocacy,” said James Beem, managing director, global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power. “While many plans are showing tremendous progress by delivering for their members during a highly volatile and stressful period, they still have a long way to go when it comes to delivering consistently strong levels of customer engagement across all segments of their member populations.”

The U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study, now in its 15th year, measures satisfaction among members of 150 health plans in 22 regions throughout the country by examining six key factors: billing and payment; cost; coverage and benefits; customer service; information and communication; and provider choice. The study also measures several other key aspects of the experience and member engagement. This year’s study is based on responses from more than 32,000 commercial health plan members and was fielded from January through March 2021.

Key findings of the 2021 study include:

Digital contact and telehealth adoption increase significantly: Telehealth utilization increased 27 percentage points, with 36 percent of U.S. health plan members saying that they accessed telehealth services, up from just 9 percent just a year ago. Digital contact with insurers also has increased, with 32 percent of members saying they connected with their health plans via web, mobile app or text message in the past year.

Overall satisfaction, Net Promoter Score and trust increase: Overall satisfaction improved 10 points year-over-year (on a 1,000-point scale), up from a 6-point increase in 2020 and a 1-point increase in 2019. The year-over-year rise in satisfaction has been driven largely by significant improvement in scores in the cost, information and communication and website factors/subfactors. Net Promoter Scores also improved, having risen 7 points during the past two years. Similarly, perceived levels of trust in health plans have increased 2 percentage points during the past two years.

Member contact significantly higher among younger generations: Members of Gen Z and Gen Y have the highest levels of contact with their health plan, with 62 percent of Gen Z and 52 percent of Gen Y members accessing their health plan’s customer service channel at least once during the past year. That number falls to 49 percent among pre-Boomers/Boomers. While contact lifts satisfaction for all members, the effect is 20 points higher among Gen Y/Z members than among older members.

Despite improvement, many had no engagement with their health plan: More than one-third (37 percent) of health plan members had no engagement with their health plan. Nearly half (44 percent) of pre-Boomers/Boomers had no engagement with their health plan, the highest percentage of any generational group.

The study measured customer satisfaction with commercial member health plans in 22 geographic regions. Some of the highest-ranking health plans and scores within 21 award-eligible regions included: Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in the South Atlantic region with a score of 791; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in California with a score of 782; and Humana in Florida and Cigna in Virginia, each with a score of 777.

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