From texting to virtual tools, millennials are making healthcare more relevant for the healthy

Published November 21, 2016

As policymakers, insurers — and yes, parents — are pondering how to get more young adults to enroll  in health insurance coverage, we sat down with Independence Blue Cross’ senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Paula Sunshine, who is reaching this emerging group of healthcare consumers in unconventional ways.

Sunshine explains how the ways in which millennials consume information is changing the face of healthcare.

Why do you believe young people are making health insurance more relevant for healthy people?

All people need health insurance because, as we know, life is unpredictable. But for young people, sometimes it’s hard to see the value in buying health insurance especially when they’re healthy. 

Millennials are reminding us that we have to give healthy members a reason to love their health insurance. And in the process, they’re influencing how we interact with them – whether it be through personalized well-being tools, the ability to sync with any device, or more generally, the ability to meet people in the digital space. 

We owe a great debt of thanks to millennials, because they’re actually helping us change the focus of healthcare.

What kinds of tools are you using to reach young people?

Any parent who has sent a kid away to college learns pretty quickly that you get much better results if you wait for them to call you, instead of you calling them. That’s the approach we’ve taken with millennials. 

We’ve started by listening to the way they want to communicate with us, so we can deliver content in ways that are relevant and meaningful to them.

For example, we know that 75 percent of millennials use text messaging as their preferred method of communication. So we’ve made a significant investment in secure text messaging with a platform we call IBX Wire. It sends personalized reminders about your health, like when it's time for your annual check-up or screening.

Looking for ways to pay your bill? There is a video for that. Time for a flu shot? We’ll text you.

What kinds of services are millennials asking for that other groups have not?

The demands of marketing to millennials are having all kinds of implications for the capabilities we offer. Providing customer service from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. isn’t going to cut it with this group. So we developed a virtual assistant called Ask IBX, which allows users to submit questions 24/7 through a web portal.

We’re also rolling out new well-being tools that will sync with virtually any device out there. These tools allow people to personalize their healthcare journeys in a way that brings value to healthy members and gives them a reason to love their insurance.  

What other trends are you seeing in how millennials engage with health plans or shop for healthcare coverage?

The millennial population is more cost-sensitive than other age groups. And the guys are catching up!

In the early years of the health reform law, we saw an over-representation of women. However, it’s become more balanced over the years.

For more information about Independence Blue Cross, visit