The COVID-19 pandemic has, in a matter of months, upended everyone’s lives. We’ve had to change how we work and where our kids go to school, limit who we spend time with, cancel anticipated vacations and overly plan our trips to the grocery store. This virus has brought with it fear, confusion and uncertainty. And, according to a J.D. Power survey, it may have also contributed to decreased member satisfaction with health plans.

In their 2020 US Commercial Member health plan study, released this summer, J.D. Power finds that “health plans have a customer engagement problem.” According to their research, this year, members feel that their health plans are lacking a customer-centric mindset.

In large part, this belief is driven from a perceived lack of communication from the health plan to the member, particularly during the pandemic. According to the survey, approximately 60% of members surveyed reported that they had not been contacted by their health plan with any information or guidance related to COVID-19. On top of that, 48% of members feel their health plan has shown no concern for their health since the beginning of the pandemic.

It’s not entirely unexpected that communication may take a backseat to more pressing issues – such as serving the victims of the virus. COVID-19 has made things more difficult for all of us to work under a “normal course of business,” so it makes sense that health plans would be even more impacted. However, the issue may not be due to a lack of desire to communicate – but more, a lack of ability to communicate effectively.

Pandemic-Driven Location Changes Cause Data Flux

A Pew Research article from earlier this month showed that, since the beginning of the pandemic, 22% of all American adults have moved, or know someone who has. That is 1 out of every 5 adults that have had a change to just one component of their contact information (address) since March. (Pre-pandemic, data accuracy in regard to contact information degraded at a rate of about 3% per month[1]).

Because of COVID-19, young adults are leaving college apartments and moving back in with their parents. Adults are moving in with older family members to act as caregivers. Others are moving from expensive urban locations to less expensive suburbs where there is more room to social distance. Some are moving full-time into their vacation homes. And then there are people who are facing housing insecurity and/or inconsistent shelter due to lost jobs. That is causing data to become outdated at an exponential rate.

Keeping Up with Change is Key to Member Satisfaction

Now more than ever, it’s imperative that payers have up-to-date contact information for their members – not only to share information about services that are available for preventive health care (i.e., telehealth options), information about testing coverage, and best practices for maintaining health during COVID-19, but also for routine communications. Access to current data allows payers to continue encouraging engagement in health/wellness programs and to facilitate care management programs for members with chronic conditions that still need to be treated and monitored in the midst of the pandemic.

It’s vital for payers to make an investment now in solutions that will allow them to have the most currently available contact data for their member populations, to continue to influence positive health outcomes and impact overall member satisfaction.

[1] Keep Contact product brochure. LexisNexis Risk Solutions, 2019.