Kaiser: Members who use app are more adherent, satisfied, and loyal

By Jonah Comstock
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Kaiser PermanenteKaiser Permanente now has 70 percent of its 9 million members as active users of its online and mobile offerings, according to Christine Paige, senior vice president of marketing and digital services at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. Paige spoke about some of the lessons Kaiser has learned about the role it has to play in a customer's life as a healthcare provider and payer.

"One thing we’ve learned is that we’re not going to be in the health and wellness app business," Paige said. "There’s a lot of people who do great work there, some who don’t do great work, but many who do, doing fitness apps and monitoring etc. And that’s really important and for some people it's very, very powerful, it helps them get motivated to get done what they need to get done with their health. But for us, our sweet spot is in making access to the clinical part, the medical part much much easier. And that’s a complement to what people do in their own life."

Rather than try to have a presence in every area of consumer health and wellness, something other providers and payers have dabbled in, Kaiser has found success zeroing in on the patient-doctor relationship. In fact, Paige says, Kaiser's "killer app" is secure email.

"Probably about 1 in 4 times people do that they don’t have to have an office visit," she said. "And in a world where there’s more and more cost sharing that’s a really great thing. I don’t have to drive, I don’t have to park, and I don’t have to pay whatever that office visit might have cost me." 

The Kaiser app also lets patients review previous conversations with their doctors, a service that really fills a need in emotional medical situations, Paige said.

"You go to the doctor, you think it’s going to be a routine visit, and then you learn something, you’re told something you don’t want to hear, or your loved one is," she said. "You have a lot of attention at that point in time, but you have no retention. You will not remember a thing the doctor said in there because it’s all emotion. So what’s very powerful, I can go back online and I can see the essence of what I was told in that really important interaction."

Paige said that the number of Kaiser members who are engaged and online pays dividends. In matched pair studies, she said, users who were online were more adherent to treatments, more satisfied with their care, and more loyal: they were two to three times more likely to stay with Kaiser Permanente than their non-connected cohorts.

Finally, Paige cautioned against trying too hard to anticipate the needs of patients based on their data, at the cost of possibly losing their trust.

"One of the things that’s critically important is obviously the security, the privacy, and being extremely careful about how we engage," she said. "We talk about making it even easier and more personalized. But what’s the temptation when you’re trying to make something more personalized? [It's] to use your data to advise you on things that you might not even have asked me about. And what’s the danger of that? I [as a patient] am going to lose confidence because I can tell by the way we’re interacting, that you’re using information you have on me, some of which is very sensitive. And even though I may be comfortable sharing and discussing that with my physician, we’re in a really different place right now."