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Kevin Dean
by Kevin Dean
on November 18, 2009

Growing Consumer Need

Consumer habits are changing. More U.S. consumers are turning to the internet for healthcare information, and healthcare companies aren't quite keeping up with online demand.

Currently, healthcare websites offer limited information to consumers, and most aren't anywhere near the top search engine results for consumer healthcare issues. Consumers are turning to millions of other service-based sites that rank high in search engine results, such as WebMD, for healthcare information where insurance sites not only fall short- they miss the mark entirely. Even sites like WebMD are beginning to be placed in second chair to Social Networking sites. Only a few health insurance companies have recognized and acted upon this need.

As a result, health insurance websites that focus on offering information will position themselves in the marketplace as invaluable resources for consumers. As more research is done over the internet to find service, quality and cost information of doctors, hospitals and insurance plans, the healthcare industry must respond and engage those demands- or be left behind.

How to Respond

Companies thus far have poured resources into the bread and butter of transaction-based online tools, but have failed to serve the customer or even bring them to the table. It's long been established that the internet is information-based, and instead of that changing as may have been predicted, it's holding true.

Consumers want accurate information tailored to meet their questions. Fortunately, healthcare companies have access to that information- but have yet to offer it in efficient, easy-to-use tools for the web.

WebMD's physician finder has gained amazing popularity. Priority Health also has a Find-A-Doctor tool that rates the doctors in their network. Consumers will find even greater benefits as providers offer more specific and personalized information in a similar way. It's not just a good idea- it's the future of healthcare companies that want to position themselves for growth.

Engaging consumers with accurate, relevant data will not only meet consumer needs to be informed, but will create an online service level of trust in companies that take the initiative to offer more than they expect, with complete accuracy.

Engaging consumers online is as simple and complex as reading their minds. Thanks to the internet, that's easy. Search engine data like Google Analytics show just that- what healthcare consumers are searching for. Social Media search sites like Social Mention provided insight into exactly what consumers are saying across the social web. Companies' customer service records also provide exact questions consumers ask regularly that would be more cost-effective to answer online.

Combining these questions into one data-driven search tool is the answer. Consumers will find more information in one place and have their specific questions answered, which in turn increases company trust and consumer plan satisfaction, and causes customer-service costs to fall significantly.

As consumer demand for more then just a quote from health plan websites. Health plans will come to realize the valuable of being customer centric.