Flipping Healthcare IT on Its Head

 In Healthcare Technology

It’s no longer just about figuring out how to make the technology work — it’s about figuring out what the people who use the technology need.

You call to schedule an appointment with your physician; you receive an email from your healthcare insurer; your explanation of benefits arrives in the mail; you reach out to the nurse help line or need to speak with someone in customer service — these are all touchpoints that can make or break a member interaction, especially if that member identifies as nonbinary, and they are inadvertently misgendered.

Government agencies across the country have begun supporting nonbinary gender identification, and healthcare insurers are being increasingly challenged by their members to support more flexibility in terms of gender identification. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) has always been committed to creating better experiences for its members, so the health plan recently partnered with NASCO to determine how to improve interactions for members who identify as nonbinary.

“It’s awful to get misgendered, especially when you’re going through an already stressful medical situation,” said Ary Lee, a member of the Georgia Equality Board of Directors who identifies as nonbinary. “I can’t stress enough how much it helps to make healthcare interactions more pleasant and comfortable when my gender is acknowledged and respected.”

NASCO and Horizon BCBSNJ gathered a cross-functional team of leaders, representing departments across the organization, to engage in human-centered design thinking techniques to determine the most meaningful changes needed within a member’s interaction.

“When Horizon asked us to partner on creating better experiences for their nonbinary members, we knew that we needed to take a different approach,” said Linda Leigh Brock, Vice President of Product Management for NASCO. “We knew that this effort needed to put the member in the center of the experience and drive our focus on member interactions rather than system functions.”

With a human-centered design thinking approach, you must immerse yourself in understanding human experiences and uncovering the highs and lows of those experiences in order to deeply explore and comprehend the key problems and opportunities for the issues that matter the most. The team conducted extensive research on nonbinary populations and engaged in an empathy mapping exercise that helped to uncover what nonbinary populations may be thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, saying and doing.

Once the team was engrossed in empathy, they began to take a holistic inventory of the touchpoints that could affect a member’s experience — everything from preselection marketing materials to post-care customer service interactions — and they created an all-encompassing member journey that documented each of those touchpoints. The team then evaluated the touchpoints in terms of importance and effort and developed a four-release roadmap that delivers improved member experiences within each release. The first release includes the most critical member touchpoints, such as supporting nonbinary options for open enrollment, altering high-impact member-facing materials and conducting training and readiness activities for customer service representatives.

“The work that NASCO and Horizon are doing in this space is so far ahead of the curve,” said Jeff Graham, Executive Director for Georgia Equality. “The research that we have conducted confirms the need for change, and I am thrilled to learn that these healthcare organizations have committed to doing the hard work to understand this community and offer thoughtfully inclusive solutions.”