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 / Summer 2013 / Issue 71(originally published by Booz & Company)


Putting an I in Healthcare

Consumer engagement is also an area where pharmaceutical companies can make an impact. For example, Biogen Idec and Merck Serono have been making impressive improvements in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Using Web-based engagement tools and patient services that add “beyond-the-pill” value, they show consumers how their behavior can maximize the effectiveness of therapies.

These consumerization pioneers are not seeking to change the behaviors of one patient at a time. Instead, they are integrating behavioral cues into a coherent therapeutic system that reinforces medical management and improves outcomes. To achieve truly engaging delivery, care will have to be coordinated among consumers, care providers, and insurers. Simplified and transparent pricing strategies will be needed to help consumers make more informed decisions. Tools and programs will be needed to help them participate in their own care. And, of course, the technology infrastructure, analytics, and devices that help them fully engage will need to be ubiquitous within healthcare systems.

3. Compelling end-to-end customer experiences. In healthcare today, customer experiences tend to be passive and fragmented, as the consumer is passed from department to department and care provider to care provider. Thus, the quality of the customer experience can vary widely by touch point, and there is often little or no coordination among the many touch points in the end-to-end process of purchasing insurance or receiving care. Unsurprisingly, this results in low levels of customer satisfaction, trust, and brand loyalty. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, an independent national benchmark based on surveys of more than 70,000 people, U.S. consumers rank hospitals low, just above the U.S. Postal Service in terms of customer satisfaction. They rank health insurers lower yet, in the company of utilities and wireless service providers.

In the health insurance sector, creating compelling customer experiences that bolster satisfaction, trust, and brand loyalty will require more personalized approaches to selecting products, more transparent and comprehensible plan options and costs, and less onerous enrollment processes. Once customers sign on, plans need to support them in the quest to manage their own health through simplified claims processes and less complex billing.

In 2011, Cigna launched its largest brand campaign to date, “Go You,” a $25 million marketing effort designed to attract consumers with a more personalized customer experience. Go You is more than an ad campaign. Cigna is supporting it with 24/7 worldwide customer service; a Web portal; social media apps; tools, such as Intuit Inc.’s Quicken Health Expense Tracker, that help plan members better manage their medical care and costs; and mobile applications that help members locate nearby pharmacies and emergency rooms. Plan members are also provided access to health coaches for chronic conditions and wellness programs.

Hospitals have been on the forefront of the effort to create more compelling customer experiences. Many have sent teams to companies that are known for the world-class customer experiences they provide, such as Walt Disney Company and the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, to become more adept at serving customers. One result is the addition of experiential elements such as valet services, streamlined admissions processes, more family-friendly policies, and the redesign of facilities to build in directional cues and create calmer, more attractive settings.

Of course, before a customer experience can be improved, it must be understood. This starts with a mapping of the current customer experience and a clear understanding of how consumers interact with the brand. Highmark, for example, used a variety of techniques and tools—including research, site visits, consumer interviews, consumer experience simulations, ethnography, and operational data—to understand how consumers perceived their experience with the company. Health organizations must then develop the skills and tools needed to enhance touch points and deliver information in ways that are accessible to consumers.

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  1. Gary Ahlquist, Minoo Javanmardian, Sanjay B. Saxena, and Brett Spencer, “Bundled Care: The Voice of the Consumer,” Booz & Company white paper, January 30, 2013: According to the results of a recent Booz & Company survey, U.S. consumers are ready for the advent of healthcare bundles.
  2. Minoo Javanmardian, Ashish Kaura, Sanjay B. Saxena, and Brett Spencer, “Healthcare after the Ruling: Let the Work Continue,” Booz & Company white paper, June 29, 2012: What the upholding of the Affordable Care Act will mean for insurers, care providers, pharmaceutical firms, and other healthcare companies.
  3. Ashish Kaura, David S. Levy, and Minoo Javanmardian, “Health Insurance Gets Personal,” s+b, Autumn 2010: Earlier analysis of the health insurance market’s coming retail era.
  4. Avi Kulkarni and Nelia Padilla McGreevy, “A Strategist’s Guide to Personalized Medicine,” s+b, Winter 2012: The tailoring of treatments to specific populations is changing the game for key industry stakeholders.
  5. Ramez Shehadi, Walid Tohme, and Edward H. Baker, “IT and Healthcare: Evolving Together at the Cleveland Clinic,” s+b (online only), Aug. 6, 2012: CIO Martin Harris on how information technology is transforming patient engagement.
  6. For more thought leadership on this topic, see the s+b website at:
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