Health plan members who use apps are happier with their plan

By Jonah Comstock

Kaiser PermanenteA J.D. Power survey on health plan satisfaction finds that mobile apps are a significant role player in helping health plans increase their member satisfaction, which overall has gone up since last year.

The survey was given to more than 30,000 people spread out across 134 health plans across the United States. They calculated satisfaction on a 1,000 point scale, taking into account coverage and benefits, provider choice, information and communication, claims processing, cost, and customer service.

Across all plans, members who had contacted their health plan via a mobile app at least once in the past year were more satisfied with their plan than those that hadn't. In fact, their satisfaction rating was 108 points higher on that thousand-point scale. The study adds that members under 40 were much more likely to communicate with their plan via text or mobile app than those over 40, but phone calls were still the most popular communication method across the board. 

Overall satisfaction hit 679, a modest 10 point bump from 2014. But that bump was driven by a 17-point jump in the information and communication category which, according to a release from J.D. Power "is primarily a result of efforts among many of the health plans to retool their approach by refining messaging, adjusting message frequency and upgrading their website." Another big area of growth, at 11 points, was customer service, including the addition of customer service via mobile and text.

"Health plans have come a long way since last year as the focus has shifted toward better serving member needs and building trust. However, there is still a lot of work to do," Rick Johnson, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power, said in a statement. "Health plans need to take a more customer-centric approach and keep their members engaged through regular communications about programs and services available through their plan. When members perceive their plan as a trusted health partner, there is a positive impact on loyalty and advocacy."

The survey also ranked satisfaction across particular plans. Kaiser Permanente's health plan, the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan -- which is quite dedicated to its successful mobile app -- topped the rankings in all the regions where it was active.