The healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing spaces in America, particularly as the baby boomer generation reaches old age. In the last year, healthcare became the largest supplier of US jobs and health spending accounts for roughly 18% of the US gross domestic product. With such a growth in the healthcare industry taking hold, getting the experience right for both customers and employees is tantamount. To deliver on this growing need, UnitedHealthcare leads through an emphasis on a personalized human touch in combination with a new digital and mobile experience to get customers what they need in an intuitive way.

In the latest in our series of Customer Experience Visionaries, Tami Reller, Chief Marketing and Experience Officer of UnitedHealthcare talks everything from using mobile technology to transform the healthcare industry to turning challenges into opportunities.

On working as both Chief Experience Officer (CXO) and Chief Marketing Officer:

Consumer experience and marketing are undeniably intertwined which is why I think there’s great value in having these teams under one, unified umbrella. The consumer experience is what really drives our marketing strategy, and marketing is what provides us with insights on how to improve that consumer experience. They go hand in hand and are vital to how we engage with consumers.

On the healthcare industry’s transformation and focus:

By leveraging the data and technology that’s at our disposal, we have the capabilities to drive a simpler, more personal experience that helps people achieve better health and spend less on care

Consumer expectations are changing and fast – much of that has to do with the intersection of data and technology. For example, when people want to schedule a dinner reservation at a restaurant, they open an app like Opentable, where they can look at the menus and pricing of nearby restaurants, request the date and time they wish to have dinner and book the reservation – all without ever having to call a restaurant. Yet, when it comes to scheduling a doctor’s appointment, people often have to call the doctor’s office and wait on hold to then get told that the next available appointment is weeks out. The fact is health care has fallen behind, but that also presents our industry with the opportunity to transform in big ways. By leveraging the data and technology that’s at our disposal, we have the capabilities to drive a simpler, more personal experience that helps people achieve better health and spend less on care  – and that shift includes new digital experiences.

On turning challenges into opportunities:

the challenges that consumers, care providers and employers face in healthcare today are really opportunities to improve and differentiate.

So many of the challenges that consumers, care providers and employers face in health care today are really opportunities to improve and differentiate. People are frustrated with healthcare – it’s complex, expensive and lacks transparency. We need to find better and more proactive ways to educate and help consumers navigate through the health system, whether that’s to direct them to the right place for care or to increase the transparency regarding the cost of care. Imagine if you ordered something online and it didn’t tell you how much it cost until after it arrived on your doorstep. Traditionally, that’s how healthcare worked. One great example is with MRIs – we know that, if a patient receives an MRI at a free-standing imagery center instead of a hospital, it is one-third of the cost – with the quality being identical and the experience oftentimes better. Providing transparency to consumers on the cost difference will save them money and takes potentially billions of dollars out of the healthcare system.

On using mobile technology to enhance customer experience:

healthcare is deeply personal and requires a human touch, so we need to strike the right balance between high-tech self-service and high-touch human service

We are shifting to think about being digital-first and creating a self-service customer environment. It’s not about just digitizing products and services; we need to rethink the entire experience to be proactive, personal, seamless and logical from a consumer. But healthcare is deeply personal and requires a human touch, so we need to strike the right balance between high-tech self-service and high-touch human service. Meeting with your doctor using telehealth for a minor ailment is a great example – it’s convenient, affordable yet still allows you to have a personal interaction with your doctor – from the comfort of your own home.

On empowering employees to meet customers’ needs:

it’s about giving providers the tools they need to take proactive action that’s based on a personalized, whole person care approach, so they are able to help their patients achieve better health over the long term.

The clinical setting is really what consumers perceive as the heart and soul of healthcare. It’s the people in these clinical settings – from physicians, doctors and nurses to frontline support staff – who consumers interact with the most. So, by empowering our employees and partners to help people live healthier lives and to help make the health system work better for everyone, we are crediting the key role they play in delivering our mission. It’s not just about prescribing patients the medicine they need to feel better in that moment; it’s about giving providers the tools they need to take proactive action that’s based on a personalized, whole person care approach, so they are able to help their patients achieve better health over the long term.  It boils down to the idea that our employees are the links to our customers – they are at the core of everything we do and everything we’re trying to achieve.

In certain populations, in particular where we are able to see a consumer over time and have access to all the data from their interactions within the health system, we can actually measure whether we’re driving better health – based on how often they seek care, what treatments they receive or whether they’re engaging in preventive care options. And, because of the large network of providers we have, we can even access the care ratings of each provider as well as the outcomes a patient receives from a high-performing physician versus one that’s not high-performing. From that information, we’re able to evaluate the data in terms of quality of care and its impact on total cost of care, not just for the employer but also the out-of-pocket costs for consumers.

be able to close that loop and make macro decisions based on what we’re learning from micro interactions.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is one of the main KPIs we use to measure customer experience, and better health, better care and lower costs are key drivers behind it. In fact, the biggest detractor of NPS occurs when a consumer experiences surprise costs or high out-of-pocket costs. This is why Qualtrics is so important to us, because it’s not just about the aggregate NPS number; it’s about measuring every element of the experience and not only in groups of our consumers and providers, but one by one, to be able to close that loop and make macro decisions based on what we’re learning from micro interactions.

On advancements in CX for healthcare:

My first example relates to when a provider needs to prescribe a specific drug to a patient. They can now see, from within their own systems, the drugs that are covered for the member, the lowest cost options and the best way for them to procure that. All those answers are right there while the patient is still sitting in the exam room. Putting these tools into the hands of our providers helps consumers experience fewer cost surprises when they go to pick up their prescription at the pharmacy and empowers providers to discuss the different drug alternatives with their patients, leading to greater patient and provider satisfaction.

The recipe for our company’ secret sauce is bringing technology, data and clinicians together, and making that work together for the customer.

The second example is something we refer to as the individual health record. In many cases, essential health information for each person exists in so many different places across many healthcare systems, in varying levels of quality and formats. What the individual health record – and all of the very sophisticated technology behind it – does is it aggregates all of that together. We then put it into the hands of both providers and members in a format that they can easily understand and take action from. The recipe for our company’ secret sauce is bringing technology, data and clinicians together, and making that work together to form the healthcare experience.

On pitching CX as being every employee’s responsibility:

I think this whole experience movement is a way to operationalize a customer-first culture.

If you can pivot a culture to be one of consumer-first, you essentially achieve it. If you truly think about the consumer first, you will want to know their whole experience and if you want to know their whole experience, then you will become an experience-centric company. I think this whole experience movement is a way to operationalize a customer-first culture.

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Customer Experience Visionaries

This is the third installment of our new blog series, “Customer Experience Visionaries.” In each post, we feature highlights from a conversation with a Customer Experience thought leader on creating a world-class customer experience, empowering employees to take action, elevating the voice of the customer and so much more. Check out our conversations with American Express’ VP of Customer Listening and Brookdale Senior Living’s Senior Director of Customer Experience.