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Q&A with Natalie Schneider: Opportunities within the health care consumer experience

June 5, 2017
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ThinkAnthem caught up with Natalie Schneider, vice president of consumer experience at Anthem, to chat about ways the health care system can evolve to meet the needs of today’s consumers.

Q: What are we missing from the health care system?

A: What we think consumers are missing from the system isn’t constrained to our environment. They’re universal traits – confidence, clarify and ease.

Confidence – did you do the right thing, did you pick the right thing plan, and do you have a physician in network? It’s all the things that will avoid the consumer from being surprised.

Clarity is that no one understands the language we use – no one knows what a formulary is, for example. So increasingly, it’s using simpler terms that our customers understand.

And lastly, ease is all about convenience. If you think about convenience -- it’s time and place. Consumers want their health plan to interact with them through a channel of their choosing and on their terms 24/7/365.

Q: How do we get a health care consumer experience transformation underway?

A: Working at an organization with a lot of resources can be a devil and a curse. In order to get traction, it was really important that this was one of our three to four priorities. Otherwise, as you know, it just gets diluted down and other priorities start to crowd out the investment and management focus.

The second thing is we’re fortunate to have both a CEO and a board of directors that were very committed to this, and not only endorsed it, but made some very symbolic changes early on that signaled to the rest of the organization that this is a durable part of our strategy.

And lastly, until you can tie consumer experience to the economics of the business and show how it’s going to improve the performance, it’s just not going to be a very long-lived transformation. So we worked really hard at creating defensible business cases that showed how it not only reduces churn, but also improves the economics of the business.

Q: Where might consumers see these capabilities come to life?

A: Well I think everyone is coming at this from a little bit of a different angle. There are similarities particularly in a few areas. First, everyone is moving to a much simpler lexicon. How do we actually speak to our consumers in terms they understand and how does this show up in our print communications and in our digital experiences? The second one is transparency. If we are going to ask our consumers to estimate costs in advance and to become much more financially accountable, we had better be giving them tools to do that – tools that are relevant and personalized and accurate. And the last area is in digital. I think for the most part we haven’t kept up as much as we could with those experiences.

Q: How do you ensure that your consumer-facing strategy aligns with your plan’s operations and services across the enterprise?

A: In an organization the size of Anthem, which is 53,000 associates, you’ve got a whole bunch of smart people doing a whole bunch of different things – service operations, marketing and strategy. We found that in March 2014, when Joe [Swedish], our CEO, declared “let’s become consumer centric,” everyone internalized that differently. So with good intent, they started moving, in some instances, in different directions.

I wasn’t until we specified a vision that we got the whole organization to coalesce around the same priorities.

Q: Do you think consumers are ready for change?

A: I think retail consumers are ready for change, and we see that every day. Health care consumers – I’m not sure. Health care has confounded so many predictions we’ve had in the past and we also see that adoption really lags awareness. I’ll give you a great example. So many of us know that you can fill your prescriptions online, but so few of us do it. I think it’s anyone’s guess how this is going to play out in the next five years.

Q: What will changes in the consumer experience mean to providers?

A: As we improve the experience for consumers, especially around clarity and understanding the benefits, this is also going to help with doctors and hospitals. They take on a huge burden today because consumers come in and they don’t understand their copay, they don’t understand their benefits, and that puts massive administrative burden on health care providers. I think this is going to have a wonderful knock-on effect as we start introducing simplicity and simpler speak into the consumer experience. It’s definitely going to benefit doctors and hospitals.

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: I wanted to leave you with a quote from one of my favorites from Peter Drucker: “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it’s to act with yesterday’s logic.” So I think today is all about moving forward with the thinking of tomorrow. 

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