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Branding During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Health Insurers Focus on the Customer Experience

• Author: Healthcare Team

Branding during a crisis

Branding during a crisis is all about the appropriate response. In the case of healthcare providers and payers, in times of stress and uncertainty, responding by focusing on the customer experience is key. Going the extra mile provides needed community support and leaves a lasting impression. According to AHIP, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, health insurers are taking measures to make sure that “Americans have access to the prevention, testing, and treatment needed to handle the current situation.” In addition to waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing, some health plans are going above and beyond delivering great service to really amplify the overall customer experience. Here are a few that we’ve found:

  • Aetna is sending care packages to members diagnosed with COVID-19. Packages include over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help relieve symptoms, along with personal/household cleaning supplies to help keep others in the home protected from exposure. They are also proactively reaching out to at-risk members through existing care management.
  • AgeOptions, with Mather, another Illinois-based organization focused on seniors, plans to expand “Telephone Topics” – its offering of a toll-free phone number for seniors to call in and listen to a variety of free programs – wellness, education, music reviews, live performances, group discussions, etc.
  • Alignment Healthcare, a new Medicare Advantage plan, launched two signature programs to address critical medical and social challenges – the AVA™ Personalized COVID-19 Risk Assessment tool and a crisis meal delivery program, providing two weeks of meals to members who cannot otherwise access food. They are also hosting virtual town halls via phone to answer members questions and concerns.
  • Aspire Health Plan (client), is offering fun, virtual events to their Medicare Advantage members and seniors in their service area of Monterey County, California. These include weekly Karaoke events via Facebook live with virtual attendees and a weekly book club held via conference phone. These efforts are designed to reduce the feeling of social isolation among seniors in their community.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) (client), is investing in their community through donations to various community funds while honoring all financial commitments for events, even if they’ve been cancelled. To encourage employee involvement, they’ve launched an online giving platform and a virtual initiative for employees to volunteer in their community.
  • CareSource is partnering with the local foodbank, donating $128,000 to deliver meals to potentially quarantined seniors in Dayton, Ohio.
  • Cigna is launching a pilot program where it is proactively reaching out to many of its Medicare members to monitor their general health and well-being as well as daily needs during COVID-19. This includes including food, housing and transportation. Customers will be able to opt-in to receive follow-up calls from the same Cigna representative to help cultivate meaningful connections.
  • Devoted Health held a free Live Q&A with their medical director via Zoom.
  • Magellan Health is providing free access to one of its digital cognitive behavioral therapy partners, RESTORE®, for members who are experiencing sleep difficulty and insomnia related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Molina Healthcare launched a coronavirus chatbot, found in the upper right corner of their website 24/7 that “provides both general and specific guidance based on members’ responses to various questions, in addition to providing informational links.”
  • MVP Health Care (client), launched myERnow, a virtual ER service, in an effort to help members who think they might be infected with the new coronavirus get the medical attention they need without adding traffic to already congested hospitals, urgent care centers and doctors’ offices. The service was launched in less than a week with the help of UCM, a tele-ER company. It’s also worth noting that this was launched jointly with another plan, CDPHP, which is one of MVP’s main competitors.   
  • Oscar launched an “online resource center” which includes a personalized risk assessment and a testing center locator based off of information gathered from your assessment recommendations.  

Additionally, SilverSneakers, a health and fitness program designed for adults 65+ that’s included with many Medicare Advantage plans, is starting to offer live workouts on Facebook. We encourage any clients or other health insurers that partner with them to share with members. RideHealth, a company that partners with healthcare organizations to manage transportation benefits, has introduced functionality to its platform to notify individuals when they may have been exposed to coronavirus during a medical transport ride at no cost to its provider partners.

All of these initiatives are very good and show that health insurers are committed to helping members during this chaotic, uncertain time. We also recommend the following ideas for consideration:

  • Reach out to members via email to provide reassurance and helpful information regarding benefits and tools available.            
  • Offer members a free subscription to mindfulness apps such as Headspace or Calm.
  • Art is a great therapy. With children at home, encourage members to share their children’s “at-home” art projects and create a Facebook album.
  • Donate smart devices (iPads or other tablets) to local nursing homes/care facilities so that patients/residents can Facetime/Skype with loved ones.
  • Focus efforts on thought leadership through content marketing. Consider using your blog as a center for information, or developing a blog, if you haven’t already.
  • Use your social media platforms as vehicles for sending information to members and the community, but also think about creative ways to use live video options and chats to engage with members.

As marketers, make sure that you realize that all advertising and marketing is happening against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, be careful and consider all promotions and messaging. Getting the brand experience right has many rewards including earning the trust and appreciation of members and garnering consideration from prospects when they need a plan. We will continue to keep an eye on what health insurers are doing to help their communities and vulnerable populations in particular.

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