To more effectively communicate with the various age groups they serve, health insurance providers need to reexamine their approaches to billing and claim information, according to research from Pitney Bowes Inc.

Results showed that 46 percent of respondents want to receive billing and claim information by mail. However, more than one-third (38 percent) want to receive it both in the mail and digitally via secure online sites, and by extension; insurers should employ a multi-channel approach to meet customer expectations. Interestingly, respondents in the older age brackets are just as interested in multi-channel communications as Americans who are under 35 years old.

“In today’s healthcare environment, changes in technology and consumer preferences are increasing the complexity of customer communications,” says Christoph Stehmann, president, Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technologies. “To be successful, health insurance providers need to understand their customer base, make sure messages are clear in statements and bills, and use multi-channel communications to meet the preferences of all age groups.”

Highlights from the survey:
• When it comes to patient information, 82 percent said they trust their health insurance provider. Those 65 years and up trust their insurers the most (96 percent); those 45-to-54 trust their insurer the least, at 77 percent.

• Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) gave their insurer top grades for message clarity, however, 37 percent gave average or below average grades.

• Insurers received the highest grades for clarity from those 65 years and up, with 75 percent giving an “A” or “B.” Insurers received the lowest grades from the 45-to-54 year-olds, and 55-to-64-year-olds, with 16 percent of both groups giving a “D” or “F.”

• More than three-quarters (78 percent) prefer phone conversations over e-mail, live online chat or physical mail when they have a problem or question about claims or benefits. This percentage is higher for the oldest age groups, while the youngest are most likely to not contact their health insurer.

• Asked whether their insurer offers information on healthy living and wellness programs, 22 percent didn’t know; 58 percent said "yes" and 20 percent said "no."

• Among those with access to healthy living/wellness programs, only half use them (51 percent), suggesting insurers have additional opportunities to drive healthier behaviors via communications.

When asked what additional information they would find most helpful from their insurer, 64 percent chose coupons and discounts, which was highest with the 18-to-24-year olds (72 percent) and lowest with 65 year-olds and over (58 percent); 41 percent said they would find information on improving the health of their family most helpful, which was highest among the three youngest age groups.

This story first ran at Insurance Networking News, a sister publication to Health Data Management.

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