Taking Healthcare Enrollment from Analog to Digital

Open enrollment is the busiest time of year for healthcare payers, and digitizing this process could make the experience much more seamless and efficient for payers and patients alike.

Taking Healthcare Enrollment from Analog to Digital
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Every year, millions of Americans will choose their health insurance plan during open enrollment. In 2016, more than 9.6 million people signed up for health insurance during the Marketplace open enrollment period, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Open enrollment is the busiest time of year for healthcare payers, and digitizing this process could make the experience much more seamless and efficient for payers and patients alike.

Contracts are critical in healthcare, and yet extensive paperwork — from open enrollment to signing a distribution agreement — is cumbersome and slows down employees. But new tools are making it easier to onboard and enroll individual members. By using forms management and digital signatures, it’s possible to dramatically reduce the time it takes to close a contract. Digital signatures can speed up processing, and the right tools can keep information secure from end-to-end.

Digital is transforming every aspect of healthcare, and by leveraging a strategic technology partner that offers a robust forms management solution, payers and plan sponsors can deliver quality care without all the administrative hassles. Controlling costs also has been an overarching issue in healthcare in recent years. A lot of the focus has been on using data to improve outcomes and curb overutilization, but focusing on backend healthcare operations is another way payers can reduce cost while improving the patient experience. Here’s how forms management can help.

A paperless future for healthcare?

Paper is still king in healthcare operations, but there are risks to sticking with paper-based enrollment. First, paper is analog. Consumers increasingly live their lives online, from purchasing products and groceries to paying their bills. In a world where every company now must be measured against the bar Amazon has set, managing the customer experience on an 8×11 piece of paper seems prehistoric.

“In healthcare, from a technology perspective and from an experience prospective, we’re behind as an industry. Unless you’re Amazon, you’re behind,” says David Magrini, senior vice president and general manager of health at Merkle, a performance marketing agency. “We’re all kind of chasing that digital technology delivered in a way consumers want today, whether you’re 15, 55, or 75, for that matter. We all want these experiences — when we want them, where we want them, and how we want them.”

Another more practical issue is that paper-based enrollment makes compliance, tracking, and data collection more challenging. Storing patient information this way also is less secure than storing it on a protected server that incorporates identity management and requires two-factor authentication for anyone to access the data. Considering how technology has evolved, a paper-based process is extremely inefficient.

“When you go to the doctor’s office and they give you something to fill out on paper, do you know what they do with that paper? Somebody takes it and they type it in,” says Christoph Trappe, director of content at Stamats Business Media. “I think some of these things just happen because it’s a habit [within the industry] and it’s really hard to change.”

Whether it’s at the doctor’s office or when you choose a health plan, doing it on paper leads to increased costs and inefficiencies.

Digital enrollment is so crucial for the industry for several reasons. Customer acquisition in highly regulated industries typically involves a longer sales cycle.

“Optimizing digital engagement is especially important for industries like healthcare because acquiring a new consumer is more than a one-click transaction. Customer acquisition for these highly regulated categories involves much more than filling out a simple form and entering basic personal information, which is partly why, before digital enrollment, the member application process was slow and tedious and highly dependent on paper forms, scanning, faxing,
in-person visits, and phone calls,” Adobe said in its recent white paper, “The New Doctor’s Order.”

Digital enrollment changes all this. It allows for robust data validation, revisioning, approvals, and customer communication across devices — whether a patient engages with the open enrollment process on mobile or desktop. It also provides analytics that payers can use to improve service delivery, speed processing times, ensure compliance, and lower their risks.

Several healthcare organizations already are benefiting from going digital. Change Healthcare, which provides technology enablement solutions and services in the healthcare industry, found that moving to a digital enrollment reduced time to complete a benefits application by 50 percent because it eliminated administrative redundancies. The process also saved 11.7 hours a day in application processing time and millions of dollars per year in labor costs. In just one month, enrollment increased by up to an average of 46 patients a day.

The evidence is in the numbers, but that doesn’t mean digital enrollment is foolproof. Payers and plan sponsors must work with the right strategic partner and find the appropriate technology solution that aligns with their business to transition from a paper-based system to a modern, digital enrollment.

Finding the right forms management solution

Even companies that have begun to improve their enrollment processes face certain challenges with digital enrollment — the same challenges payers moving from a traditional, paper-based system would face when transitioning to an online process.

Some of these challenges include data silos and having patient information spread across multiple channels, databases, and even organizations — a mobile-experience that isn’t optimized and just mimics a desktop experience, workflow processes that are still partly manual because of compliance issues, over-reliance on expensive IT solutions that make revisioning and ongoing management more costly, lack of data visibility that makes measuring performance more difficult, and technology fragmentation that leads to an inconsistent customer experience across platforms.

The right forms management solution will address all these challenges and offer both cost and operational efficiency. Companies considering a technology partner should look for the following capabilities.

Streamlined form discovery. The right forms solutions should be easy for patients to find, and for payers to create, edit, and publish across desktop, mobile, and apps through one central management platform. It also should offer dynamic search capabilities with full text, tags, and geo-targeting, so that users can easily find or be delivered the right form.

Simplified form completion and personalization. Payers should look for a platform that has built-in tools that reduce keystrokes and probability of errors, that features pre-fill applications, has dynamic capabilities that adjusts the presentation and content based on each user’s behavior, and that ensures consistency across devices.

Performance, records, and compliance management. You should be able to track performance and easily monitor any issues or anomalies that hinder processing times and create inefficiencies. The right solution should include confidentiality settings and identity management and safely and securely store patient information for however long and in whatever manner is required by regulatory standards.

Efficient processing. Workflows should be customized to the needs of your business, and the forms solutions should easily integrate with your existing applications and legacy tools, especially as you transition your backend operations. It also should integrate with tools or offer built-in tools that enable e-signatures and eliminate the need for faxing or mailing forms.

“E-signatures are an extremely critical part of these processes, whether its bedside consent, a patient intake form, or signing up for a health insurance plan,” says Logan Franey, an Adobe product marketing manager who works on Adobe Experience Manager Forms, a forms and communications management solution. “That’s where AEM Forms make a significant impact. Legally compliant digital signatures are important, but having a centralized content management platform to ensure that all forms and communications are up-to-date with the latest regulations, legal clauses, and even branding, is even more crucial to accelerate time-to-market and enable scalability”.

A digital enrollment process helps payers and plan sponsors provide a better customer experience — and in healthcare, that is critical. More digital engagement is not only beneficial for these groups in a business sense, it also increases patients’ access to care and lowers cost throughout the system — efficiencies that can be passed onto consumers in the form of lower premiums and lower deductibles.

Digitizing enrollment also has far-reaching implications for payers and plan sponsors beyond just open enrollment. They can apply the same approach to other healthcare processes, like physician onboarding, compliance programs, wellness and disease management programs, and surveys. Because a payer already has done it with open enrollment, they can eliminate a lot of bureaucracy and redundancy from the process, making the move from analog to digital more seamless.

But ultimately, whatever technology solution a provider chooses for forms management, there’s a larger, more noble end goal, experts say.

“Moving everything to digital and streamlining all these processes saves time and money, empowering payers and providers to focus what they do best — which is not reviewing forms for completeness or manually qualifying members and patients,” Logan says. “It’s delivering quality care. Let them focus on that, and let technology take care of the rest.”

Read more about our Best Practices for Healthcare series from Adobe’s healthcare team.

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